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New minutes plan

Former Bulldog Fruendt prepares for increased role at NU

Nick Fruendt entered the Northwestern men's basketball program last year and fell victim to a bit of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, he wanted to play, and after the Wildcats put up an 8-22 record in 2007-08, playing time for Fruendt and the fresh crop of talent looked like a distinct possibility.

But when it became apparent the Wildcats could compete and at times even excel in the Big Ten with their veteran talent at guard on the floor, it was tough for the Batavia graduate to argue for more minutes. That said, it was hardly a wasted year.

“I’d much rather have team success over individual success,” Fruendt said. “The guys that were going to make us win played. I realized that and it’s why I keep working every day to become a player that will help Northwestern basketball win games. I learned a lot this year. I got to learn a lot from our older guys.”

Fruendt averaged just 1.9 minutes and appeared in nine of the Wildcats’ 31 games as a freshman, begging the question of why redshirting wasn’t more heavily considered. Had he known the minutes weren’t going to come, there’s a chance it would have been revisited, but at the same time, he now feels he’s a better basketball player for having gone the route he did.

“I kept thinking that I would be able to break into the rotation,” Fruendt said. “That never happened, but I kept my hopes up and it kept me working hard. I feel like maybe if I would have redshirted I would not have worked as hard as I did. I always wanted to keep that possibility of playing alive. It just didn’t happen, and the way everything is right now is just great with me. I don’t have any regrets about that.”

Looking forward, with Craig Moore gone at guard, there is more court time freed up, but that doesn’t mean it will be handed to the former Bulldog. NU assistant coach Mitch Henderson thinks Fruendt might have the best jump shot on the team, but there’s still more work to do.
Henderson and the rest of head coach Bill Carmody’s staff would like to see Fruendt get stronger and continue to work on his ball handling and defense.

“Defensively, he’s still got a ways to go,” Henderson said. “He’s got to keep his body in front of some of the guys in our league. That’s the place where Nick knows he needs to improve a lot.”

From Fruendt’s perspective, it’s also still a matter of completely nailing down Carmody’s Princeton offense.

“I am still learning it and I’m just glad that I get to go into this year knowing it better because it’s pretty tough,” Fruendt said. “Princeton offense is not really what anyone runs in high school.”

After the eight-win season the year before Fruendt’s class arrived, the Wildcats went 17-14 last year and were knocking on the door of the NCAA Tournament in the final weeks of the season after knocking off Michigan State, which made it all the way to the NCAA title game, in East Lansing, Mich.

Getting to the tournament for the first time is the goal for the Wildcats, and Fruendt hopes he has a bit more to do with whether that happens come the winter.

“I’m not a freshman anymore,” Fruendt said. “I understand and know what it’s like and what it takes much better than I did a year ago. There’s minutes to be won at the beginning of every season for coach Carmody. That being said, I feel like now I know what it takes and how much work I still need to do.”

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