Dan Fleming is a rare combination at the offensive end of the basketball court, a big man who can post up in the paint but also bury three-pointers from beyond the arc.
But the rangy senior’s rapid emergence as one of South Jersey’s top basketball player is perhaps best illustrated by his versatility at the other end of the floor, where he is both a shot-blocker and a charge-taker.
“I’m seeing things so much better this year,” Fleming said during a recent Haddonfield practice. “I can read when I should take a charge and when I should go for a block.”
The 6-foot-7 Fleming has helped Haddonfield (9-0 through Wednesday), the No. 1 team in the Inquirer Top 25, maintain its perfect record despite the absence of star senior guard Mike DePersia, who has missed the last eight games with a wrist injury.
Haddonfield also has been getting strong work from senior swingman Aidan Blake, who has assumed many of the ball-handling duties, as well as senior forward Dylan Heine, among others.
But Fleming has begun to make the transition from complementary role player to dominant force, a development all the more notable considering his slow but steady progression through the powerful program.
By his own admission, Fleming was an out-of-position interior player for the freshman team three seasons ago. He was a reserve for the junior-varsity squad as a sophomore.
But a growth spurt, a full commitment to offseason training and participation with a high-powered AAU program have combined to rocket Fleming’s game to another level.
“He’s having the kind of senior season you dream about,” Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said of Fleming. “He’s doing it at both ends. On offense, he can shoot the three but he’s become a good post player, a good ballhandler, good passer.
“On defense, he’s blocking shots, taking charges, altering shots, and he’s doing it without getting into foul trouble, which is big for us.”
Fleming leads Haddonfield in scoring (18.7 points per game), three-pointers (13) and blocks (24). He scored 33 in a victory over Egg Harbor Township, then put together perhaps the most complete game of his career with 25 points, including a trio of three-pointers, plus seven rebounds, four blocks and three assists in a win over North Jersey Group 4 power Linden in the Seagull Classic on Jan. 5 at Holy Spirit.
“I feel like every year, I’ve gotten more comfortable, more confident,” Fleming said. “Every day I’m trying to become a smarter, better player.”
Fleming missed most of the summer with Team Speed, an AAU squad based in South Jersey, because of a back injury. That limited his exposure to college coaches.
He doesn’t yet have any scholarship offers yet, although he has drawn recruiting interest from NCAA Division II programs such as the University of the Sciences and Goldey-Beacom.
“It was frustrating to miss [summer sessions], but I know I’m going to get more looks,” Fleming said.
Fleming was a baseball player and swimmer and diver as well as a basketball player when he entered high school. He wasn’t sure which sport would earn his focus.
Things changed after he spent some time on the bench as a sophomore but also grew from 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-6.
“Freshman year, I could shoot but the coach had me playing inside because I was tall,” Fleming said. “Sophomore year, I was still real skinny but I had an outside shot and I could handle a little.
“I was on the bench and I didn’t like sitting. I wanted to be out there so bad.
“I grew to around 6-6 and that summer I joined Team Speed and I just worked so hard.”
Fleming was a starter last season as Haddonfield went 29-3 and won the Group 2 state title. He averaged 11 points and made 26 three-pointers.
But this season has been something different.