Across the nation families are gathering with their players for “Senior Day,” the final regular-season matchup at home for graduates. No. 21 Gonzaga is hosting its at 2 p.m. when the Bulldogs face Pepperdine.
It’s a “bittersweet” moment for former Garfield High standout Vivian Frieson (pictured right by Gonzaga). The wing will be joined by her mother, but long wanted her father to attend the game.
“I’ve only met him once,” said Frieson, whose father lives in Ohio and was incarcerated until she was 16. “We stay in contact and everything but I just thought it would be nice to have him come to a game. We don’t get to play on that side, although you never know with the NCAA tournament.
“A lot of my teammates are able to have their parents come to every game. I’m not going to have my Dad at my last home game or graduation. But, really the way I look at it, my Mom is my mom and dad. I know the people who really care are going to be there.”
Frieson’s father played hoops in high school and ran track, her grandmother telling her once that he was “pretty good.” But it was Frieson’s mother, Julien Washington, who supported her daughter’s passion, steering her clear of trouble and helping her succeed at Gonzaga.
The senior, known to teammates as the heart of the team, is having her best season under coach Kelly Graves. Frieson averages 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds, working last summer on her ball-handling, outside shooting and perimeter defense to become a more versatile player.
“A lot of times we were short on guards, so sometimes I’d end up bringing the ball up from the floor,” said Frieson of summer workouts where teammate Courtney Vandersloot attended USA Basketball tryouts. The extra work shows in Frieson’s ability to make more accurate passes. “I played a little bit of that position in high school and AAU, too, so it’s just something I needed to brush up on a little bit.”
The defending West Coast Conference champion Zags (22-4, 11-0 WCC) have achieved their highest national ranking yet and hope to build on 2009’s NCAA tournament appearance. Playing opening-round games at Edmundson Pavilion, the Zags upset Xavier and lost 65-60 to fourth-seeded Pittsburgh.
“Last year was a big step for us, we gained a lot of experience from it,” Frieson said. “Most everybody is back from that and we don’t want any letdowns. We know coming in that can affect us as a team and our goals, but it also can affect going into the NCAAs and our RPI and our seed.”
But even though there’s still plenty to accomplish, Saturday is about the seniors — Frieson, G Tiffanie Shives and WCC scoring leader Heather Bowman, who the Spokesman Review featured in a front-page story.
Bowman is a projected, early second-round pick in the WNBA’s April draft. Frieson, who’s 6-0, also is hopeful to make a roster. Graves said both would make solid pro players. With 11-player rosters in a 12-team league, it’ll be difficult, however.
“Anything will work for me as long as I get an opportunity,” Frieson said.