Liza Fruendt's summer isn't exactly carefree, but what it lacks in serenity is balanced out in excitement.
The Batavia senior and reigning Kane County Chronicle Girls Basketball Player of the Year is transitioning from the high school segment of summer basketball to an AAU-intensive July with her powerhouse AAU program, the Lady Lightning.
All the while, Fruendt has had a couple major decisions in the back of her mind – her college basketball future, and whether she will continue on with tennis, another sport in which she's thrived throughout her Bulldogs career.
"There are a couple decisions I've got to make," Fruendt said.
At least on the recruiting front, Fruendt's options are expanding. A recent scholarship offer from Northern Illinois followed others from Youngstown State and Northern Kentucky, and Batavia girls basketball coach Kevin Jensen said several Missouri Valley Conference programs also are showing interest in the 5-foot-9 guard.
As some of her teammates and acquaintances from various basketball circles add scholarship offers, Jensen said he's seen Fruendt's resolve and focus continue to grow.
"She's been kind of motivated a little extra," Jensen said.
During a highly challenging summer schedule for the Bulldogs – which closed earlier this week – Fruendt's talent and leadership were sorely needed.
Jensen switched the Bulldogs from their former summer circuit at Glenbard South to a league at Trinity High School. It made for a longer drive but also met Jensen's objective of the Bulldogs battling top-notch competition. Jensen said Batavia went about .500 this summer playing elite opponents such as Benet, Montini, Whitney Young, Rolling Meadows and Hinsdale Central.
"I knew our returners would be able to handle it," Jensen said. "They all play for high-level AAU programs. The worry was the girls who are moving from the lower levels to the varsity level. That's a jump in itself, and now jumping to an even higher level, how they'd respond. … At first I was wondering, was this a good decision, but we had a lot of girls grow up real quick and realize, oh, I need to play this hard the whole time and not just skate by the rest of the time."
Fruendt acknowledged "shock" on the part of some Bulldogs playing against state powerhouses but thought it was beneficial that many of her younger teammates didn't know just how challenging those opponents would be.
"Erin [Bayram] and I would be like, 'We're playing Rolling Meadows tonight, they went down to the state final game,' so you kind of think about that, but they don't really know," Fruendt said. "I think it was better for them because they didn't know how good they were until we either beat them or lost."
Fruendt, who averaged 19.7 points a game for the 18-11 Bulldogs last season, is a combo guard. She said some college programs view her as more of a point guard and others as more of an off-guard, and she's open to playing either.
She'll have plenty of size with which to play off next season at Batavia as the 6-foot-2 Bayram, a senior, and 6-1 sophomore Hannah Frazier both return. Capitalizing on that duo more effectively is a goal the Bulldogs worked toward this summer.
"We're trying to get it stuck in our head, the high-low aspect, so I think this year [the coaches will] be able to make them realize the high-low all the time because I think that could be a really good thing for us if they're comfortable, one up high, one down low," Fruendt said. ... "I think it will really help us if they can get used to getting comfortable together and trust each other."
Fruendt said Bayram's younger sister, sophomore Shea Bayram, is among the newcomers who caught her eye this summer as the Bulldogs look to reload and continuing the ascent they've made under Jensen.
"We had a five-game improvement in my first year we had another five-game improvement last year, and we've talked about how the goal was another five-game improvement leading in to this year," Jensen said. "They realize it's the same increment but each time it's much harder. The degree of difficulty will go up exponentially as far as what they're going to have to be putting in."