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Tuesday, March 28, 2023 — Houston, TX

Fied the beast: MBB’s Fiedler does it all, on and off the court

Photo courtesy Rice Athletics

By Cadan Hanson     2/28/23 10:51pm

It doesn’t take a basketball analyst to figure out which NBA player junior forward Max Fiedler models his game after, and it just so happens to be the player that the 6’11 forward from Indialantic, Florida has admired his whole life.

“I’m a big fan of Nikola Jokić,” Fiedler said. “I like the way he plays. I’ve liked him since early on in his NBA career, before he was two-time MVP. It’s going to be a three-time [MVP] this year. You’ve heard it here first.”

Jokić, one of the top centers in the league, is known for filling up the stat sheet, but also for his unique ability to facilitate the offense; he almost plays like a point guard, with flashy passes, despite  being a 6’11” center. Fiedler, who facilitates the Owl’s motion offense from the top of the key, is known for crafty back-door dishes and no-look assists, which have helped him lead Conference USA in assists this season with 5.0 per game. Fiedler credits his success as a passing big to his teammates.

“I think I can pass a little bit,” Fiedler said. “It helps having great teammates around me who can put them all in the basket. Just being unselfish [trying] to get other people going. Because, at the end of the day, some people see the ball go in the basket and it helps them get energized and lock in on the defensive end. And you know, two people are happy.”

Aside from passing, Fiedler also performs  on the defensive end, putting up 7.9 rebounds per game, placing him second in C-USA. On offense, he’s averaging double-digit points on an efficient 72.0% shooting. In a pivotal overtime win earlier this season, against the University of Texas at San Antonio, Fielder recorded just the second triple-double in Rice’s history with 24 points, 11 assists and 13 rebounds. Head coach Scott Pera emphasized how important Fiedler is on both sides of the ball. 

“[Max] is an integral part of the team,” Pera said.  “He has the ball in his hands in a majority of the possessions to make a decision for our offense. He is also a big part of our defense to anchor in that [he is] being a huge communicator and rebounder. I’ve seen him develop in both ways, taking large steps in terms of leadership as a person, communicating better with his teammates. And then as a player, you know, he’s developed into one of the best passing big men in the country, and is a key part to everything that we do.” 

Despite being a large presence on the court, Fielder was known to be more reserved in the locker room, especially as a freshman.

“Being the new kid and not really knowing anyone and being away from home, I was still trying to figure out everything,” Fielder said. “I was just kind of soaking it all in trying to keep my head above water while trying to balance everything. As the years went on, I got a little more comfortable with everything.”

Now in his fourth year, and more comfortable in the locker room, Fielder said that he has stepped into more of a leadership role on the team.

“I just try to have a voice on the court, helping direct people and making sure everyone is attuned to what we need to be doing,” Fielder said.  “And trying to get some of the new guys up to speed quickly, which they’ve all done a great job with. I think I’m just trying to set an example of what needs to be done and, and how to go about doing it.”

Off the court, just as he is on the court, Fielder is a man of many talents. Growing up in a small coastal town in Florida, Fielder has been an avid surfer and fisher for nearly all of his life. 

“I’ve been surfing since I was in elementary school,” Fiedler said. “Some of my friends love to do it back home and it’s a great way to be active and it’s just a good time.

Fielder, a mathematical economic analysis major, has also received several awards for his work in the classroom. According to the two-time C-USA men’s basketball scholar-athlete of the year, juggling both sports and academics comes down to time management.

“I’ve always really liked math, growing and I want to be somewhere I could kind of take those skills and put them to use,” Fielder said. “I definitely have to put some hours in studying for that, but it’s good. It keeps me busy. The moment you get up, to when you go to sleep, doing something that’s not just a complete waste of your time is super helpful.”

Feilder, who reached 1,000 career points in Saturday’s loss against University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said he hopes to continue to leave a mark on the program.

“I think I want people to say that [Max] is a good teammate and that he put the team over himself individually and was just a good guy to be around,” Fiedler said. “The coaches and my teammates have helped me a lot both on the court and off the court. I’m just super thankful for it.”

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