Ful-Bright future

Patrick Deneen, Reporter

Twelve years ago, U-High basketball player Andrew “Gametime” McDowell knew his ultimate career goal.

“Coaching at U-High has always been a goal of mine, but I didn’t think I would happen this quickly,” McDowell said.

He can check that off of the list.

Last week, Dr. Robert Fitzgerald stepped down as U-High’s head basketball coach in order to participate in the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching Program next spring, an “intense personal and professional development program,” Fitzgerald said.

Approximately 45 American teachers receive this honor each year.

He will spend the semester examining “national identity and its connection to the history curriculum,” most likely at the University College London Institute of Education, Fitzgerald said.

“I’ll study how England is focusing on diversity, race, multiculturalism, and immigration in history classrooms. England is having a conversation that we aren’t having yet—‘What does it mean to be British?’ and ‘What role do traditionally marginalized groups play in formation of national identity?’” Fitzgerald explained.

The Fulbright Award pays for travel and study of teachers selected from a rigorous application process. It is administered through the Department of State’s Bureau of International and Cultural Affairs.

This opportunity is important not just for Fitzgerald, but for U-High.

“The Fulbright Program wants teachers to bring experience back to classrooms and share their developments with their communities,” Fitzgerald said.

This also will be a good experience for Fitzgerald’s family, including freshman Patrick Fitzgerald, who tentatively plans to spend May and June in Great Britain.

“The experience will be fun. I’m looking forward to visiting Ireland and Scotland, two of my ancestral homes. I’m also excited to explore Sherlock Holmes’ setting, as well as England’s art galleries,” P. Fitzgerald said. “It will be a good experience for my whole family.”

He also looks forward to seeing the cultural differences between America and Europe. “I think it will change my perspective a bit. From what I’ve heard, England is more, I don’t want to say ‘civilized’, but more well-behaved,” he said cautiously.

U-High can expect to see a few changes upon Fitzgerald’s return.

“When I come back, I plan to drink more tea than coffee. And I’ll be an even bigger Liverpool fan,” Fitzgerald joked.

One more significant change will be in U-High’s basketball program.

“Unless he messes things up, Coach McDowell will remain head coach,” Fitz teased. “but I have full confidence in his ability to lead the program.”

But don’t expect any severe transitions.

“There’ll be no stylistic change. We’ll continue to be an up-tempo team. We’ll still be a defensive-minded, fundamental team that’s going to compete every night,” McDowell said. “The way I see the game is how Coach Fitzgerald sees the game. We both learned it from Coach Hubbard.”

McDowell looks to continue the team’s development under Fitzgerald.

“Fitz left a legacy of taking us from a small school, low-3A program to high-quality 3A, which is hard work,” McDowell said. “I want to have success with it, run the program the right way. I want Coach Fitz, Coach Hubbard, and Coach Metcalf to be proud of where the program is.”

This change in coaching will accompany U-High’s transition into a new conference.

“I’m excited about the Central State Eight; I’m super excited to play against schools bigger than us,” McDowell said. “It’s a big challenge, but we’re ready for it.”

McDowell has big plans for the future, including an important first for the team.

“I’m excited to win our first 3A regional title,” he said.

Even so, he will keep the team’s focus beyond what happens on-court.

“My favorite memory from high school basketball is hanging out with my teammates after games and on the weekends,” McDowell said. “In high school I would’ve given a completely different answer, like beating Quincy Notre Dame or getting to the finals of the Holiday Classic. But twelve years removed, that’s the stuff you value and cherish—just spending time with those guys.”

McDowell does hope for one important distinction between his tenure as coach and Fitzgerald’s.

A head coach with more hair.

“We’ll see how my genes hold up. I think I’ve already held it longer than Coach Fitz, and I’m going to keep it as long as I can.”