Directly in front of him, Toole can clearly see Frederick is floundering. He sees a 19-year old kid unable to find his way in a sophomore campaign, struggling to truly handle the adversities of college basketball, the same adversities that most student-athletes embrace. He sees a 6’8 power forward that provides minimal production offensively, can’t rebound consistently and serves as a liability on the defensive end.
As Toole put it, he sees a player that, “doesn’t enjoy being fatigued.”
But in a far off, distant world, perhaps years down the line, Toole can see a different persona. Deep down, there’s a ‘Dre Frederick that could be one of the better players within the Northeast Conference. A strong, athletic big with good touch around the rim who could be left out on the floor longer than two or three minutes without his coach having an aneurysm.
That Frederick has shown himself every so slightly in practice and games from time to time. Ironically, Frederick’s best game to date was last year against Duquesne, RMU’s opponent Saturday. He registered four blocks in 12 minutes in last year’s win.
For most of the past year and a half, once gameday hits, that Frederick has disappeared. The guy that misses easy offensive putbacks, gives up shots at the rim and doesn’t always get back on defense continues to show.
Frederick is visibly frustrated about his play this season. Toole is visibly frustrated about it, too. What’s it going to take to get him back on the right track? Someone? Anybody?
“Chris, that’s like the question of my life,” Toole said in his postgame interview after Thursday’s win over Lehigh. “I think about that probably more than you would care to know, and I haven’t figured it out yet.”
A key fundamental in a successful coach is knowing the proper motivational strategies in order to get the very most out of specific player. You can see it at every level, from youth sports, to high school sports, to college and even at the professional level. It’s not always the same with everybody.
I remember it from high school. My junior football season at Malvern Prep, our offensive line had a couple week stretch where we were struggling to provide a consistent push off the ball, and it hurt our record. We were a good line with multiple Division I commits (not me, obviously), but out of the five of us, our o-line coach had to figure out what exactly it’d take to get us back to playing at our full potential.
For some, including myself, it took reaming us out to really drive home the message. It required verbally destroying us to the point that we had no other choice but to go out and perform to the best of our ability, or at least, put that effort forward. It struck fear into our eyes, but it worked.
For others, that route isn’t the best option. It might take positive reinforcement and dishing out compliments and building up someone’s confidence from the very bottom.
With Frederick, Toole has tried both, and neither have proven to be effective. He even coined ‘Dre his own personal nickname.
“We’re just trying to figure out how to get it out of ‘Dre, whether it’s to pat him on the back or try to yell at him. We tried to give him an on-court persona where all we called him was ‘Snowcone’ for a while,” Toole said. “We weren’t allowed to call him ‘Dre in practice. It was just Snowcone. I said like, ‘You’ll have this alter ego. You’ll come on the court and be flying around.’
“That didn’t work.”
Toole said there are days where Frederick will walk into practice and dominate. Like, Who are you? Where did you come from? Where is this guy and when will he show up in games?
“I think he’s constantly in a mode of trying to stay in his comfort zone or stay in his lane,” Toole said. “I’m trying to get him out of his comfort zone and so that’s where the rub happens.”
Frederick played relatively well on Nov. 18 against Bucknell. He posted 10 points and three rebounds on 5-of-7 from the floor. I’d take that from him every night. I think anyone would. Toole said he played really hard in stretches and showed some good signs and took a step in the right direction.
How about since? Not so much.
“To me, it’s all about effort with ‘Dre, and that’s what we try and tell him. We just want you to play hard, and then if you play hard, good things will happen to you,” Toole said. “And then if you can come rest, and go play hard again, and come rest, and then go play hard again, ultimately, good things will happen to you.
“Some of his best games, whether it was Bucknell or some of the games last year where you saw flashes, was just because he played hard.”
I thought, ‘Okay, maybe he’s not completely healthy.’ Frederick sports small bands on both of his knees, and sometimes looks in pain running up and down the court in transition. It turns out he has tendinitis.
“Yeah, so does everybody. I get sore when I get out of bed in the morning. It’s part of being a college basketball player,” Toole said. “But that can’t be what holds you back. That can’t be what stops you from trying to reach your potential or be what you can be. You’ve got to ice afterwards. Sorry. You’ve got to rehab a couple times a week. That’s part of life.
“Every Division I athlete ever has to go through that. If that’s going to be too much adversity for you to handle, then we’re going to be in trouble.”
When people start saying they’d welcome back Stephan Bennett and Leo Gomis, both of whom were in the Sewall Center bleachers watching the game last night, you know the frontcourt has issues. Who knows if Aaron Tate is going to play this year, and even if he does return, he could turn out to be a shell of his former self.
As impressive as he’s been, the Colonials can’t rely solely on Billy Giles for the rest of year, especially deep into NEC play. So will the real Andre Frederick, please, please, please stand up?