Pfitzer rises above adversity

It never takes long for Isiah Pfitzer to distinguish himself as unique on the basketball court.

Not when the 6-foot-5 guard squeezes himself into small areas to complete drives to the hoop. Not when the Washington senior shows off a range on a jumper rare for those at the high school level. And not when the 184-pounder, skinny as the foul line, manages to mix it up and rebound like a post player.

For those reasons, the thing that makes Pfitzer’s game truly remarkable can take a few weeks or even a full season to spot. Sometimes it doesn’t get noticed at all.

Pfitzer was born without the fingers on his left hand, but has compensated so completely it has become an afterthought to observers and opponents. He was named to the Academic Athletic Association’s first team after averaging more than 27 points per game. He led the Eagles to the section playoffs and has committed to play at West Valley College next season. Pfitzer will finish his prep career Sunday at City College of San Francisco in a showcase game pitting the AAA’s best against a team of all-stars from the Bay Counties League. As usual, his hand will never enter his mind.

“I never really think about it — I can make layups with [my left], rebound, dribble and do anything I need to,” Pfitzer said. “Some of my friends and teammates forget my hand is like that.”

University coach Randy Bessolo is the organizer of Sunday’s games and coached Pfitzer for two years with the Bay Area Warriors AAU team. He watched him prove himself time after time, including an MVP performance in the Rumble in theBay Tournament last summer.

“I never even thought about [his hand],” Bessolo said. “It’s remarkable what he’s done, and Isiah’s proven he can play with the best.”

Pfitzer admits he wasn’t always so self-assured. Growing up he occasionally practiced with his uncle Mark McNamara — a former Cal and NBA player — but said the fluid game that now appears so natural wasn’t always there.

“Not a lot came easy to me and I used to get upset and think I’d have to do something else,” Pfitzer said. “But my mom told me to never let anything get in the way of what I wanted to do.”

Pfitzer’s mother, Holly, has always served as his inspiration, first verbally and now emotionally after passing away suddenly of a lung illness in 2006. Isiah Pfitzer went to school one day thinking his mom had a cold, but got a call that night saying she had died.

“There were times I’ve broken down and gotten sad and upset but I try not to let [the adversity] control me,” Pfitzer said. “I’m a positive kid and I’m just looking to achieve and do great things.”

melliser@examiner.com

City All-Star Basketball Games

SUNDAY AT CCSF

» AAA vs. BCL, 3 p.m.

» Slam-dunk and 3-point shooting competition, 4:30 p.m.

» WCAL vs. Bay Area, 5 p.m.

» Tickets available at the door, $6for adults, $4 for students

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