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Keenan Fitzmorris’ breakout was a long time coming

Center Keenan Fitzmorris looks to pass the ball against Sacred Heart on Monday, Dec. 12. Fitzmorris enjoyed a breakout season in his first year with the Seawolves. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

This past season, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team struggled to find its footing with a reconstructed roster in a new conference. However, it appears to have found some stability on the frontcourt with center Keenan Fitzmorris.

Fitzmorris’ NCAA career began with an unproductive four-year stint at Stanford where the 7-footer totaled just six points scored in 33 minutes played. At Stony Brook, the veteran has received opportunities that he never did as a Cardinal.

Fitzmorris played in all 33 games for the Seawolves this year, starting 29 of them. His new-found playing time with Stony Brook allowed him to fully display his skillset. In his first season as a Seawolf, Fitzmorris shot 53.5% from the field while mixing in some emphatic dunks and mid-range jumpers. He was the team’s third-leading scorer and rebounder, as he averaged 9.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. He was also seventh in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in blocks per game and sixth in shots blocked.

Fitzmorris attributes his career year to the change of scenery.

“There is something powerful about going into a new environment,” Fitzmorris said in an interview with The Statesman. “Coming to Stony Brook was a fresh start and an opportunity to be in a place I’ve never been before — [a place] where I’m seen for who I am at the moment.”

Fitzmorris was born and raised in Overland Park, Kansas. He has three older siblings: Audriana, Alexandra and Michael. As a volleyball player, Audriana was a three-time national champion with Stanford. Alexandra also played Division I women’s volleyball, as she starred for Arkansas and Boston College before finishing her career at Morehead State.

Fitzmorris chose a different path due to his parents. His father played college basketball at the University of California, Irvine and professionally in Sweden and Peru. His mother represented the Peruvian national team in both basketball and volleyball.

“I started playing [basketball] in fourth grade,” Fitzmorris said. “Going into middle school, I began playing competitively while also continuing recreational. It helped me develop in different ways and become more serious about basketball.”

Fitzmorris’ sports résumé is extensive. He started with soccer before taking on baseball. In middle school, he started playing basketball and football while also running track. In high school, he abandoned the other sports and dedicated himself to basketball.

He attended school in the Kansas City area up until his senior year of high school, when he decided to attend New Hampton School in New Hampshire. The boarding school is touted for fifth-year high schoolers looking to make the jump to Division l basketball.

The vast upgrade in competition at New Hampton helped turn Fitzmorris into a top-tier Division I prospect.

“Going into my senior year, I wanted a challenge,” Fitzmorris said. “New Hampton prepared me for Division l because it was closer to the college experience. On one hand, there was living away from home, and basketball-wise there was better competition.”

Fitzmorris’ first and only year at New Hampton was successful, as he led his team to the 2018 AAA New England Prep School Athletic Conference title game. After doing so, he was ranked the 15th-best center in the 2018 high school graduating class by 247Sports. Following that season, he garnered interest from eight Division l schools and received offers from Stanford, St. John’s, Texas Tech and Wichita State as a three-star recruit.

Fitzmorris committed to Stanford on June 3, 2017 — over a whole year before he graduated high school. Though Fitzmorris went on to have a great final season that winter and received seven other offers, he stood by his commitment and enrolled at Stanford after graduating.

Fitzmorris was on the men’s basketball roster for four years at Stanford, but the only real success he had was in the classroom. In all four years, he was selected to the Pacific-12 Winter Academic Honor Roll. In 2021 and 2022, he was included in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court.

Fitzmorris said that Stanford’s professors were renowned, crediting them for his academic achievements.

“You end up running into people who are experienced and knowledgeable about all sorts of things,” Fitzmorris said. “All of my teachers were the best in their field.”

On the court, Fitzmorris was only active for two seasons. He redshirted for the 2018-19 campaign, which was his true freshman season. Fitzmorris appeared sporadically over the next two seasons, playing in 19 games in total. He missed the whole 2021-22 year with an injury.

Though Fitzmorris said he adapted to the speed of college basketball at Stanford, he decided that he would rather play than sit. On March 21, 2022, Fitzmorris entered the transfer portal. Two weeks later, he was scooped up by Stony Brook and head coach Geno Ford.

Fitzmorris does not regret making that transaction. By joining the Seawolves, he has finally found some burn on a college basketball court, and it is paying dividends for both him and his team.

“It’s been a great fit,” Fitzmorris said. “I love my teammates. The coaches and I feel as if every game is an opportunity to learn and grow as a basketball player and make the entire Seawolves community proud.”

Fitzmorris was integrated into the starting lineup immediately and scored six points in his debut in a loss at Florida, which matched his career total from Stanford. In the following six games, Fitzmorris began to come into his own. The big man averaged 11.5 points on 81.3% shooting from the field, securing his role as a full-time starter on a struggling 2-4 Stony Brook team.

Fitzmorris continued to grow as the season progressed. In the Seawolves’ CAA debut against Northeastern, Fitzmorris scored 16 points — a career-high at the time.

Fitzmorris continued to be an instrumental piece in Ford’s plans. During the final month of the season, he officially became the team’s third star behind guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore and forward Frankie Policelli. During a three-week stretch that spanned from Feb. 2 to Feb 23, Fitzmorris averaged 12.9 points per game on 60% shooting. That hot streak culminated in a career-best performance at University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he scored 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting and added seven rebounds and two blocks.

After helping lead Stony Brook to its first-ever CAA playoff win on March 4, Fitzmorris’ breakout season ended on a personal high note when he scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting in a loss to Charleston.

Fitzmorris does not envision basketball leaving his life anytime soon. He still has two years remaining of NCAA eligibility. As a psychology major, he has specific and lofty goals for his future in regards to basketball.

“I want to be the first neuroscientist to play in the NBA,” Fitzmorris said. “That is my long-term goal.”

Fitzmorris and Ford have both confirmed that he will return to the team for the 2023-24 season, where he will likely reprise his role as the team’s starting center. With star point guards and fellow transfers Aaron Clarke and Dean Noll returning from injury to join him on next year’s squad, Fitzmorris may very well continue to reach that potential that he showed during his illustrious high school career.

Jonah Kahn contributed reporting to this story.

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About the Contributor
Alex Streinger
Alex Streinger, Assistant Sports Editor
Alex Streinger is an Assistant Sports Editor of The Statesman. He is a junior majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. He is the beat reporter of the Stony Brook men’s soccer and nationally-ranked women’s lacrosse teams. He interns at Movendi International, the largest independent global social movement for development through alcohol prevention.
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