Nick Fruendt scored 7 points in 11 minutes in this win over Minnesota last year in the Big Ten Tournament, one of the highlights at Northwestern for the Batavia grad who is now a senior.
Call me the king of the obvious but never is a very long time.
Maybe that's why I'm not-so-secretly rooting for Northwestern's basketball team to reach the NCAA Basketball Tournament for the first time in school history when the selections are finalized later this afternoon.
Perhaps it is because my late father was a Northwestern graduate and loyal Wildcats fan.
But I'd also like to see Northwestern make it to the "Big Dance" because of guys like Nick Fruendt.
Fruendt, who starred at Batavia High School and helped lead the Bulldogs to 3 conference championships in 4 years, is one of 4 seniors on the Northwestern basketball squad this season.
While the 6-5, 205-pound guard has seen limited playing time during his 4-year collegiate career (he averages 5.5 minutes per game this season), he isn't the type to second-guess his decision to attend Northwestern.
"At times, it has been difficult but there's not much I can do about it now," said Fruendt, who has appeared in 22 of the Wildcats' 31 games this season. "I've been just trying to soak it all in this last month and be ready for whenever I'm needed.
"Things happen for a reason," added Fruendt. "Facing some adversity will make me a stronger person in the future."
In high school, Fruendt was one of those players seemingly around for more than 4 years, partially due to his immediate varsity success as a freshman.
A four-time all-Western Sun Conference pick and 4-time Daily Herald All-Area selection, Fruendt put up some impressive numbers while playing for coach Jim Roberts' Bulldogs.
As a sophomore, Fruendt helped lead Batavia to a regional championship and eventual berth in the Class AA sectional title game against West Aurora (the Blackhawks won, 63-57).
His junior year, Fruendt averaged 21.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.2 steals per game, and was named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association's All-State First Team.
As a senior, Fruendt averaged 19.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.5 steals, while becoming the second all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,849 career points. He was a repeat first team all-state pick by the IBCA.
I can still hear Hall of Fame Batavia public address announcer Rudy Dubis' call, "Basket by Nick Fruendt," ringing in my ears whenever I enter the Bulldogs' gym.
At Northwestern, Fruendt began his collegiate career by hitting his first field-goal attempt as a freshman during a victory over Central Arkansas.
As a sophomore, Fruendt connected for his first 3-pointer in a game against North Carolina A&T.
Last season, his individual highlights included a then-career-best 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 steals against SIU-Edwardsville, an 8-point outing at Illinois, and scoring 7 points in 11 minutes against Minnesota at the 2011 Big Ten Tournament.
This past December, Fruendt poured in a career-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, and grabbed 6 rebounds during the Wildcats' win over Mississippi Valley State.
Some of his favorite memories include playing at Madison Square Garden last season and winning the Charleston Classic title earlier this year (beating LSU, Tulsa and Seton Hall).
His travels have ranged from Italy to an aircraft carrier off the coast of South Carolina to Moscow, Idaho - where the Wildcats stayed when they faced Washington State in last year's NIT quarterfinals.
And there have been the usual Big Ten stops in places like East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Columbus, Madison, Iowa City, Bloomington, West Lafayette, and Champaign.
His favorite Big Ten place to play outside of Evanston?
"That's a hard question," said Fruendt. "You tend to like playing where you win.
"My freshman year, we beat Michigan State on the road," said Fruendt. "That was quite a thrill. And our win at Illinois this season was very rewarding. Road wins are so hard to come by in the Big Ten."
What makes Big Ten basketball so competitive?
"The talent level in the Big Ten is the cream of the crop," said Fruendt. "The coaches are superb and the fans at every school are pretty enthusiastic about it. We've played some great home games this year.
"But the best part has been being with my teammates," added Fruendt, who rooms with Northwestern all-time leading scorer John Shurna and Davide Curletti. "I've made such great friends. John (Shurna) is a real nice guy who is humble and laid-back, while Davide is quite the entertainer."
Fruendt and Shurna were once AAU teammates with the Illinois Wolves.
"The first time I met him was at a camp when I was in fifth grade," said Fruendt. "He was friends with (former Batavia basketball player) one of David Bryant's cousins. I remember him as a tall, skinny kid with a big head."
Together, Fruendt, Curletti, Shurna, and Luka Mirkovic have been part of the winningest senior class in Northwestern school history. Their 4-year mark of 75-55 includes a school-record three consecutive postseason appearances - with a fourth straight tourney trip a virtual lock this season.
But there's one big thing hanging in the balance.
Will the Wildcats be invited to their first NCAA Tournament?
As of Saturday, CBS Sports bracketology expert Jerry Palm has Northwestern penciled in as one of the last 4 teams invited.
"There's been so much talk about us being a bubble team," said Fruendt. "You see it on SportsCenter but try not to worry about it."
The Wildcats' NCAA hopes weren't aided by Thursday's 75-68 overtime loss to Minnesota in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.
But you never know what the NCAA Basketball Tournament selection committee will be thinking.
"It would be a euphoric feeling (if we made it)," said Fruendt, whose parents, Joel and Suzanne, have spent numerous weekends watching Wildcat games, both home and away.
"I think it would be hard for teams to scout us because offensively we're so unique compared to some of the other teams," said Fruendt, who was honored last week as the Northwestern Sportsmanship Award recipient for 2011-12.
An economics major, Fruendt hopes to land a job in finance/consulting upon graduation in June.
"It has been a great experience," he said. "I'll have more time to reflect upon everything in the spring."
• You can reach Craig Brueske at email@example.com
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