Timeout with Alicia Froling: Australia's next big thing
Freshman Alicia Froling has been going at full steam all season and has turned plenty of heads in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) with her impressive play for Southern Methodist (SMU).
The Aussie finished her first season in the NCAA leading her Mustangs squad with some impressive numbers, including 11.5 points, 7.2 rebounds (10th in AAC) and 1.8 blocks (5th) per game. She was simply outstanding, scoring at least 10 points or more 19 times this season,
"I knew that I would definitely come in and have an impact," said Froling, "I'm not the type of player who wants to sit on the bench; I always want to put my best foot forward."
Along with Funda Nakkasoglu (Utah State), the first year duo have no doubt been the most impressive Aussie first year student-athletes this season. Their continued emergence demonstrates the exciting future ahead for the Australian women's national team.
Attending the Australian Institute of Sport (Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence), Froling comes from a strong family pedigree linked with basketball. Keely, her twin sister also plays alongside her for SMU, while both her parents played professional basketball. Younger brother Harry Froling is also a promising future college prospect who has been part of the Australian junior national team program.
The Froling twins have appeared in two FIBA junior World Championships, the most recent was as a member of the bronze medal-winning Australian Gems team at the 2013 FIBA Under 19 World Championships. Expect big things from Froling, her sister Keely and fellow Australian team-mate Stephanie Collins all playing with the Mustangs. Together they are helping reshape the Mustangs to become a deadly force in the AAC and potentially evolve into future Australian Opals.
"What's great about these Australian players is they're used to training twice a day," said Head Coach Rhonda
With six freshmen on the team, SMU entered the 2014-15 season with a very inexperienced squad. The girls season came to an abrupt end when the Mustangs fell to Memphis in the first round of the AAC Tournament, finishing with a 7-23 overall record and 3-15 in conference play.
The Pick and Roll’s exclusive interview with: Alicia Froling
Michael: What have been the biggest challenge for you in your first season at SMU and how did you manage it?
Alicia: There have been a few challenges this season. First, I came in still in the recovery process of my wrist reconstruction which was difficult. I lost all my muscle and form in my shooting arm. However with weights, rehab, and then of course just a lot of shooting, my shot started coming back a few games into the season - something that allowed me to be a lot more confident in my game!
I would have to say adjusting to the different style of play in college and also learning how to step up and be a leader on this team because we are so young with 6 freshmen which I didn’t come in expecting to have to do. Yet I think being at the Centre of Excellence (CoE) and taking part in a few World Championships teams with older players made the transition into more of a leadership role a bit easier for me. I am definitely looking forward to the next few seasons and seeing us grow.
Michael: You have been in great form this season. How do you prepare for each game?
Alicia: I don’t really have any pre-game rituals. Before a game I focus on what I know I have to do to help the team and think about how I am going to do that stuff. Otherwise I just try to get out on the floor a bit earlier then everyone so I can put up a few extra shots and then get ready to play.
Michael: The team has not enjoyed much on court success so far this year but things are looking promising. What are the goals for you and the team moving forward?
Alicia: This season hasn’t gone exactly to plan but we have grown tremendously since the start of the year. We came in with 6 freshmen and only one senior so it took us a while to learn how to play together. We then also had to learn how to finish games under pressure. We have definitely finished the regular season on a much higher note and next year is looking a lot more promising. We have set our goals higher and are aiming to show everyone just how good we can be as a team next year.
Michael: What has been the highlight for you in your first year with the Mustangs?
Alicia: Some of the best parts of this past year would have to be the experiences I have been able to have. Travelling and seeing the different cities in America and then also being able to play some of the best teams in the country like Connecticut. The absolute highlight of my first year though would have to be being able to share this experience with both Keely and Steph.
— SMU Athletics (@SMUMustangs) March 5, 2015
Michael: You were named to the All-Freshman Team – congratulations! What does this mean to you?
Alicia: It means a lot to me. I came to college with a goal of making an impact in my first season. I wasn’t about to accept being a ‘freshman’ who people sometimes don’t have big expectations for as it’s their first year and I feel I achieved this goal. My Dad has always had very high expectations of me and I put them on myself too. I have worked hard this season, but I have some big goals for my basketball career and I’m not going to stop working now!
Michael: As a student-athlete, what area of study are you focusing on?
Alicia: The system is slightly different from that in Australia; you don’t have to pick your major until the end of your sophomore year. As a result, I am currently undecided as to what I am majoring in!
Michael: With a fine family pedigree for basketball, whom do you consider your role model? Who has had the biggest influence on your career to date?
Alicia: My Dad has had the biggest influence. I have been around basketball since I was born and after we started playing at age 9, both Mum and Dad would coach us. However it was when we got a bit older and were playing for state teams, that’s when he really pushed us. He would do individuals with us and we definitely got in a few arguments. He preached about being tough and not backing down and I think that has really helped me get to where I am today. Without Dad coaching us up in Townsville, there is no way I would be here.
My Dad is probably also my role model. A lot of people say I play like him. He is my toughest critic but his praise means so much more because of this too.
Michael: Many young Aussies would love to pursue their basketball in US College. Can you share your journey to SMU?
Alicia: I started getting recruited after we won the U18 National Championship. Coaches would get in touch via email and I even received a few phone calls. College was always something that I had considered. However I wasn’t sure, having not really followed NCAA basketball, yet also weighing up the opportunity to play in the WNBL. I was at first a bit hesitant. I also didn’t really understand the whole recruiting process or how big getting some of these offers actually was. After I realised that the WNBL would always be an option, and once you say no to going to college you can’t give it another go, I decided that I would like to check it out.
Fortunately, my Dad handled a lot of the process and after taking 4 visits to different schools, SMU seemed like the right choice. This decision was made easier as Claudia Brassard, who used to play for the Townsville Fire and of whom I have played with and been coached by since I was about 13, played for SMU and under the same coach for her college career. Myself and Keely signed letters of intent, and then a few months later, Steph Collins who was at the AIS (CoE) with us also signed at SMU and now we’re all over here in Dallas together.
Michael: It is always great to get a perspective from the player as to what their strengths and weaknesses are. Can you fill us in on yours?
Alicia: My game has always been quite physical. Until I moved to the AIS, I wasn’t the most skilled player, but I would chase rebounds and play hard which is what I feel are still some of the strongest aspects of my game. I would also say my ability to beat bigger players with my speed and then take advantage of shorter players in the paint is another strength.
My shot has come a long way, and long 2 and 3’s are starting to become a part of my game but I still want to work on my consistency. Some of my weaknesses include ball handling - I want to be able to swing between the 3 and 4 positions. My ball handling is something that I need to improve on if I want to be able to play consistently and productively at the 3.
Michael: Siblings don’t always get on together, and the same can ring true for twins. As you play on the same team as Keely, has everything been smooth sailing?
Alicia: Keely and I have actually been really good this year (this may seem surprising to those who know us). We used to argue a fair bit on the court in our junior years! I think moving so far from home and having to be each other’s support crew without our family here, and also probably just maturing a bit has allowed us to see that we do work well together - the bickering we used to do doesn’t help. Now I’m not saying that we don’t argue at all (sorry Mum and Dad!), but it has definitely become a lot less frequent occurrence.
Michael: It is great to see that both Keely and yourself are helping lay the foundations for a strong SMU team for years to come. What are your plans for the off-season and what will you be working on improving?
Alicia: I’m always looking to improve on my shooting and ball handling. As a player who plays predominantly the 4 but also swings into the 3 a bit, these skills come in handy as I can beat slower posts that guard me and also post up the smaller wings that might guard me. I am also looking at working on my physical strength which will help my overall game, especially playing against older women. This off-season is going to be very busy as the U19 World Championships are on. I won’t be having much of a break after the season as I have to keep my form and fitness up in preparation for these Championships. We have a strong team and hopefully I can use my experience playing against the American style this past year to help us against Team USA.
Michael: That would be great to see! Lastly, what can you share about both you and Keely that not too many other people may know about?
Alicia: I guess not many people would know that I am the older twin by 7 minutes and that we really don’t look alike at all! People who have just met us can’t tell us apart, but once someone has spent some time with us, everyone has said that we look nothing alike and they can’t believe that they couldn’t tell us apart before!
Michael: I would like to thank you for your time in answering these questions. Good luck in preparing for the World Championships.
Check out Alicia Froling's recent radio interview with The Pick and Roll's Damian Arsenis and the boys from The Flag Flyers on Melbourne's sports radio station SEN 1116: Flag Flyers podcast.
You can follow Alicia Froling on twitter: @AliciaFroling