BATAVIA – Liza Fruendt favors superlatives when talking about her senior girls basketball season at Batavia.
The teammates and coaches who prepared and supported her through the Bulldogs’ landmark run speak the same way.
In two months, the Kane County Chronicle Girls Basketball Player of the Year will have about a three-week window to abandon that intensity before resuming her career at Missouri State.
Deviating from her floor demeanor, Fruendt remains unsure about how she’ll handle the time between graduating and beginning summer courses and workouts in Springfield, Mo.
“You know, it’s hard, because I really want to be in the gym every day. I love doing it,” Fruendt said. “But I think it’s nice to just hang out with friends and enjoy the end of high school, just hang out and relax. … I don’t know, we’ll see.”
Fruendt, who also earned Player of the Year recognition as a junior, boosted her team-leading per-game averages in points (24.7), assists (3.6) and steals (3.4) while helping the Bulldogs to their first regional title since 1990.
She scorched Geneva for a school-record 51 points in a January road win – keying a regular-season sweep – and eclipsed 20 points in 26 of Batavia’s 31 games. She also scored 30 or more points eight times.
Although the Vikings limited her to 10 points in a season-ending loss in the 4A Addison Trail Sectional final last month, Fruendt has a hard time letting any sour feeling linger.
“I can’t be too sad about what we did and how we lost to Geneva. They played great and they were on a really big streak, and we got caught on a bad night, and that happens,” Fruendt said. “We still did so many things that I can’t be sad about, so it was just matter of just, ‘All right, it’s time to get back at it. Now I’ve got to prepare for college.’ “
Bulldogs coach Kevin Jensen, who guided Fruendt for three of her four varsity seasons, always will associate urgency with the 5-foot-9 guard. Still, he saw Fruendt’s fire reach another level beginning last spring.
Jensen met with Fruendt and senior post Erin Bayram – Fruendt’s longtime best friend and a Boston University recruit – about their goals for 2013-14.
The Bulldogs had improved their victory total in each previous season under Jensen and looked to have a more established group of reserves flanking a starting lineup that also included sophomores Shea Bayram, Hannah Frazier and Bethany Orman.
“I still am just amazed at the year Liza had,” Jensen said. “I knew she’d have a strong year. I had no idea she’d have the year she was able to put together. It was just out of this world, it really was.”
The youngest of three basketball-playing siblings, Fruendt got a jump-start on becoming the leading scorer in girls program history by being visible in places other than Batavia’s high school or middle school gyms.
She routinely met with a trainer at River West Family Fitness in downtown Batavia, intent on building strength to take on defenders in traffic. After those sessions, Fruendt often put herself into Chicagoland gridlock for workouts with Jeff Pagliocca at Buffalo Grove-based Evolution Athletics.
Knowing Jensen aimed to further highlight her off-the-ball skills, Fruendt focused on everything she could, aspiring to improve her overall game more than any individual skill.
“She loves the game and she sacrificed everything she had to to turn herself into the player she is now,” Pagliocca said. “I’m not close; I’m at least an hour for her each way. And she was coming out three to four times a week. ... When you see that kind of commitment from someone, you want to give that back to them tenfold.”
Bayram and Fruendt addressed the team at last week’s season-ending banquet, following the protocol of past Bulldogs captains. Their remarks ultimately turned to the glut of memories both accumulated through their careers.
Bayram will leave for summer classes and workouts about a month after Fruendt, so the conversation lately has turned to getting the most of their remaining hang time.
“We’ll just do whatever works out and we’ll figure it out, because we always do,” Bayram said.
One good thing about being Fruendt’s friend: it’s usually easy to pinpoint her whereabouts if she’s not answering her phone.
“I think when you try your best,” Fruendt said, “only good things are going to come.”