HU’s Fryman makes the most out of basketball career that almost wasn’t

Photo by Steve Clark.

Entering her senior year on the Huntington North High School girls’ basketball team, Sarah Fryman had no intention of playing hoops in college.

“I just wasn’t really looking into it that much,” she admits. “So, I was just planning on going to Ball State or something.”

Jump ahead five years and Fryman is currently a senior at Huntington University, where she played basketball for four years – and established herself as one of the Foresters’ best players ever.

After having that caliber of career, why did the 5-9 forward come so close to not playing college basketball at all?

For Fryman, a breakout senior season at Huntington North changed everything. Prior to that, her assessment of her play in high school is frank.

“I feel like I didn’t really do much until senior year of high school, honestly,” she says.

During her senior campaign, Fryman emerged as the Lady Vikings’ top scorer, posting a double-digit point total in every game. Behind her contributions, the team went 15-8, which was its best record in a decade.

Fryman credits the star-making season to encouragement she received from her coach, Rashida Ray, on the Always 100 travel basketball team.

“The travel coach that I had the summer going into senior year, I think really just put a lot of confidence in me,” she shares. “I think just gaining confidence in myself and realizing that I actually have the potential to be good, I think that’s kind of what helped me out, honestly.”

Fryman’s stellar play had captured the attention of Lori Culler, the longtime head women’s basketball coach at HU. Halfway through the Lady Vikings’ season, Culler made the short drive over to Huntington North to pay Fryman a visit.

“Coach Culler came to the game and contacted me and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, I want to play college basketball,’” recalls Fryman. “So, just having someone like her, and being around Huntington, I knew what their program was about, I was like, ‘This is legit now.’

"Honestly, I wasn’t really looking to play basketball, because I didn’t know if I was able to until Coach Culler talked to me.”

Less than a week after Huntington North’s season ended, Fryman signed with HU.

While Fryman was excited that she had earned the opportunity to play college basketball, she was also nervous, intimidated by the superior players and faster rate of play that she would be encountering at the college level.

Luckily for her, someone with experience dealing with both of those things was there for her. And that person happened to be HU’s star player at the time, senior Miranda Palmer.

“She actually stayed in Huntington the summer going into my freshman year,” notes Fryman. “So, she took me under her wing and was willing to work out with me, like lifting, doing conditioning and shooting.

“So, honestly, I give her so much credit for how I’ve developed being at HU, just because she taught me what work ethic is and how hard I have to work to be as good as I want to be and be great.”

One of the most important things Fryman learned from Palmer was the technique of her signature scoring move, the step-back jump shot. That move would ultimately help Palmer become HU’s all-time leading scorer that season, with 2,173 career points. It would also become one of Fryman’s foundation methods of scoring during her time as a Forester.

“That probably is, like, the go-to move that I learned from her,” observes Fryman.

In addition to learning the step-back jumper, Fryman worked on learning how to improve her mental toughness at HU. She identified it as an area of improvement after her freshman year, Culler states, and worked on it throughout her sophomore campaign.

That work started to pay dividends as a junior, says Fryman.

“Junior year and this year, that just stepped up my game to another level,” she remarks. “That’s when I realized, it was junior year, that, wow, having a good mental game and not getting frustrated or down on yourself, that is a difference-maker.”

Culler cites it as the aspect of Fryman’s game that improved the most during her time at HU.

“I think her junior year was when she really began to master it,” she says. “And then this year, as a senior, was just incredible. She was just able to weather bad starts to games. She got a lot of attention from the defense … To just be able to overcome that, mentally, and just stick with it and just persevere, she couldn’t do that if she didn’t have a very strong mental game.”

Culler says the defensive attention Fryman received as a senior was multifaceted and aggressive. It was a challenge, states Culler – but one that Fryman was up for.

“People would play probably three or four different people on her in a game, just to try to give her a different look, some with size, some with speed,” she observes. “What we tried to do was try to get her in situations where she could take advantage of who was guarding her and kind of force the defense to have to change what they were doing sometimes to her.

“Ultimately, you stop once aspect of her game, she had a lot of other things she could go to.”

Fryman describes herself as being comfortable playing both inside and out. In addition to honing her step-back jumper, Fryman put in work playing closer to the hoop as a Forester, says Culler.

“She, as a freshman, got a lot of opportunities to work on a post game, which I think helped diversify her game and allowed us to put some different looks on the floor, depending on what the opponent’s defense looked like,” says Culler.

That offensive versatility propelled Fryman up the same all-time scoring list she witnessed Palmer summit as a freshman. She saved her best for last, pouring in 715 points as a senior – which broke the program’s single-season scoring record.

The record’s previous holder: Palmer, who shared it with Becky Stump.

Fryman is still incredulous that the player she idolized as a freshman is the one she ended up passing.

“Honestly, it’s crazy,” she muses. “Looking back, if you would’ve told me all this was possible my freshman year of college, I would’ve been like, ‘No way. That’s crazy. I can’t be as good as Miranda Palmer was. That’s crazy.’”

In the end, Fryman finished just two spots below Palmer on the all-time scoring list, topping out at 1,910 career points.

Fryman’s excellent senior season earned her player of the year honors in the Crossroads League. She was also one of 10 Division II players in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to be named a first-team all-American.

“It’s awesome, just because I’ve never really had awards like this before,” remarks Fryman. “Not that awards are everything, but it just shows that the hard work and everything that I’ve put into this game has come out with something.

“It’s super awesome, just all this.”

Ultimately, for a player who almost didn’t play basketball beyond Huntington North, Culler says Fryman has earned a special place among the locals who have taken their talents to her team at HU.

“We’ve had a lot of solid players come from that program,” says Culler of Huntington North. “I think in terms of somebody that really just put it all together and just had a stellar career, Sarah would definitely be at the top of that list.”