Batavias Fruendt takes her game to next level
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With a basketball family like Nick, Sara and Liza Fruendt, it's no surprise the competitive siblings have had their share of arguments through the years.
The surprise might come with which sport.
"Sometimes we play tennis as a family," said Liza Fruendt, a junior at Batavia and the youngest in a family of exceptional athletes to parents Joel and Suzanne. "It doesn't end well. I don't know why we still do it. We always end up in fights because no one wants to lose."
Fruendt might be the youngest but she certainly has learned how to keep up — and has learned to hate to lose. Her older brother Nick, an all-state basketball star at Batavia who just finished at Northwestern, not only plays basketball with his sister but also tennis.
"Nick is a really good tennis player. We split sets this summer," Liza said. "It was really hot so we didn't finish, and he moved (to San Franciso) five days later. So we're going to Mexico for spring break, and we said we'll finish then. We said we'll see who will win."
Liza Fruendt didn't lose much during a junior season filled with many highs including 18 wins — the second straight season Batavia has improved by 5 victories — third-place finishes at Morton and Oswego's tournaments, a 2-2 record in the winner's bracket at Montini's Christmas tournament, and an 8-4 conference record.
She also stood out individually with an area-best 19.7 scoring average, topping 20 or more points 17 times while finishing with 572. The all-tournament choice at Morton and Oswego and Player of the Year in UEC River Division also is the 2012-13 Daily Herald All-Area Captain, an award her brother won twice.
That competitiveness is one of the first things Batavia coach Kevin Jensen brings up while talking about Fruendt. He recalled a team-bonding scavenger hunt to start of the year that didn't end well for Fruendt and her teammate Sami Villarreal when their lead slipped away when they couldn't find Waldo.
"They put different Waldos in to trick you so we ended up losing, we were in last place," Fruendt said. "We were both a little mad. Me and Sami just stormed out of there yelling at Jensen, blaming him for it."
"She is unbelievably competitive almost to a fault," Jensen said. "She's a demanding player. I think we work well together because I'm very demanding of everybody too. But she can be competitive to a fault because a small drill, she doesn't want to lose at anything."
While the Fruendts like to compete, they enjoy supporting each other even more. Liza remembers being in grade school and part of the packed crowds watching Nick's games at Batavia. The only thing that has changed now is which sibling is cheering for the other.
When back for holidays from California, Nick Fruendt was a fixture at the Batavia girls game vocally supporting his sister and the team. And from 2,000 miles away he would catch any game online he could.
Sara, now playing at Dubuque College, surprised Liza by coming back to see the Larkin game when Liza went over 1,000 career points.
Liza said she can remember playing pickup games with her siblings in the driveway, pleading "to let me score" but often finishing with zero points.
"Just having two other siblings that also play sports and a dad that comes from sports, that's all year round," Liza said. "Once you are around that all the time you just become competitive. And especially with each other we are always competitive no matter what, for anything."
Jensen, who didn't coach Batavia until Liza's sophomore season, said he first learned of Fruendt as a player when he had Sara in his math class.
"I knew she was coming up and would be a pretty good ballplayer for them," Jensen said. "I had no idea she would be what she's been so far."
Fruendt made an immediate impact as a freshman averaging 8 points a game and leading her team in scoring. But as she looks back now she knows how far she's come.
"My shot was very bad my freshman year actually," Fruendt said. "From freshman to my sophomore year was my shot (that improved the most). Once I realized I had that down I thought I'd work on my handles a ton. That helps me with so many other things during the game."
Fruendt, who works out three days a week in Buffalo Grove with trainer Jeff Pagliocca and players like DePaul-bound Meghan Waldron from Wheaton Warrenville South along with some of the top boys players Quentin Payne and Dom Adduci, said that improved ball-handling was key to her huge junior season.
"It gets competitive," said Fruendt, and there's that word again. "Some players can do some better things than others so you are always motivating yourself that they are doing this, they are doing that."
Fruendt started her junior year with 72 points in 4 games at Morton's Thanksgiving tournament, a sign of the improvements she had made and some of the big scoring nights to come.
One of her finest efforts came in the third-place game at Oswego Holiday Classic when she made 2 free throws in the final seconds of overtime for a 69-68 win. She scored 32 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter and overtime making all 6 of her free throws.
Fruendt came up big in both games against Geneva, first with 26 points in a 60-56 loss and then 25 points and 4 assists accounting for 33 of Batavia's 46 points. She ended her season with a similar game in Batavia's regional loss to St. Charles East scoring 24 of her team's 40 points.
"Liza impresses me year after year," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "I know she puts in a lot of work in the off-season. All of her success is well-deserved. She has a bright future ahead of her."
In addition to her scoring Fruendt led Batavia in assists (2.9 a game) and steals (1.6) while finishing third on the team in rebounding (4.4 a game).
"I didn't think I would make as big of a jump as I did," Fruendt said. "My goal going in was to be at 15 (points per game). Then once the season got going I thought maybe I could get to the 20 mark.
"It's cool for me to see. I'm in the gym every day, I'm always working on my game, I'm always watching the game so I just want to keep getting better. So when you see results it's great to see. And now I just want to strive to do more. It's nice to see hard work pay off."
"She's basketball 365 days a year," said Jensen, who also credited Fruendt for improving her shooting percentage by 10 points from the start of the year to the end. "I know she plays tennis and her mom is a huge, huge tennis fan but she's all about basketball. She makes us better."
Fruendt's spike in scoring average each season — from 8 to 14.2 to 19.7 — is very close to Batavia's rise in wins — 8 to 13 to 18. To Fruendt the continued climb in wins again speaks to the value of hard work.
"From last year it was such an improvement in every aspect, our play, our work ethic, our team bonding," Fruendt said. "Just building off that we are going to keep getting better. We obviously didn't go as far as we wanted in the postseason, but overall we had an awesome improvement. It was so much fun."
Fruendt can score attacking the basket and getting to the line — she made 76 of 98 free throws for 78 percent — or stepping back and making one of her 80 3-point baskets. She was an impossible cover for most teams, either shooting over a smaller guard or constantly beating people off the dribble and finishing around the basket in a way that reminded Jensen of Nick Fruendt.
"I had no idea she would be capable of averaging nearly 20 points a game," Jensen said. "That's one of the reasons (colleges) like her. It's hard to stay in front of her. She's 5-8 but there's something about her that she plays bigger than that. She's got some of the same finishes that her older bother had. She reaches out and shoots that layup that 'how did that get in, it's from the total side of the lane.'"
Jensen said there would be more colleges calling — so far Fruendt has offers from Youngstown State and Northern Kentucky — if Fruendt were a couple inches taller.
"I have this feeling if she would be 5-10 we'd have a handful more offers on our hand," Jensen sad. "We'll see how it plays out and what she's thinking. I wouldn't be surprised if we heard from a few more schools and they start sniffing around because not everyone can put the all in the hole and she can, and she can get by people off the dribble."
The recruiting process has been an enjoyable one so far, Fruendt said.
"It's been really fun," Fruendt said. "It's an honor to me to be recruited. It's something I dreamed of since I was a little girl. To become a reality is awesome."
Looking ahead to her senior season, Fruendt already is setting goals for both herself and her team which will bring back half its unique eight-player roster.
"Being the only seniors, we (myself and Erin Bayram) want to be able to lead our team to something awesome," Fruendt said. "Hopefully make the 20-win mark. That will be one of the motivations in the summer work. Geneva is going to be tough again next year. That should be motivation for all of us.
"My junior to senior year, (I want to improve) my passing and fully being able to create my own shot. And be more physical and go to the hoop more. Like Meghan Waldron, she goes to the hoop so much, you see her doing that and think, I can do that move. She has helped me so much."
Jensen envisions moving Fruendt off the ball at times even while in the same breath recognizing how that could backfire.
"I don't want to take the ball from her a lot because she can get all the way to the hoop without anybody stopping her and it's hard to say, 'Hey run a play when the point guard can just go get a layup,'' Jensen said. "But I think it can make us tough to defend if Liza can play off the ball. Now you have to look away from the ball to see our best player instead of everybody staring at the ball and that's where our best player is.
"I just think she's going to be dynamite for us again next year. The sky could be the limit next year."
That's got to be a scary proposition for opponents, the final chapter of what will end up being a full decade of basketball brilliance at Batavia from the Fruendt family.
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