When Alec Fruin was a senior on the 2016-2017 Beloit Turner High boys basketball team, Matt Majkrzak was an assistant coach at Bemidji State University in Minnesota.
“We were Alec’s first (scholarship) offer,” Majkrzak said. “I recruited him pretty heavy at Bemidji.”
Fruin, who averaged 27.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists on his way to being named Gazette area player of the year his senior season at Turner, accepted another offer--from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan.
The 6-foot-4 Fruin appeared in seven games as a freshman. Last season as a sophomore, Fruin appeared in 29 games with five starts and averaged 22 minutes and 5.4 points a game.
The Wildcats finished 17-12 that season, but Wildcats head coach Bill Sall decided to go back to his alma mater, Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after the season.
Guess who took over the NMU program? It was Matt Majkrzak.
“It’s funny how the world works,” Majkrzak said. “The only player on Northern that I really knew was Alec.”
Fruin took on a major role for the Wildcats this past season.
Voted as a team captain as a junior, Fruin started all 30 games, averaging 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
“He pretty much ended up being our best player,” Majkrzak said. “He had to sacrifice a ton of his individual success this year in order to help our team win by playing out of position.”
Fruin said he did have to sacrifice a bit.
“My role did change,” he said. “We lost a pair of all-league 20-point scorers, so a lot of roles changed.”
In most of the Wildcats’ games, Fruin guarded the opponents’ best player. That meant he would play point guard on offense and power forward on the defensive end because of the Wildcats’ roster.
In the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference Tournament quarterfinal game, Fruin scored only one point in 36 minutes. But Majkrzak credits him with being a major factor in the Wildcats’ 70-69 upset of regular-season champion Ferris State, which had won the title with a 16-4 record.
Northern Michigan, which was 9-11 in the conference and was the No. 8 seed, spoiled Ferris State’s shot of earning the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division II regional.
“Our whole defensive game plan was to play a zone with Alec in the middle,” Majkrzak said. “He kind of ran around and guarded everybody. He might have finished with (one) point, but he was our most important player.
“That would be how I would describe Alec for his on-the-court play.”
Next season, Fruin will be depended on to score more when he moves back to his more natural position of shooting guard.
“He started last year a few games at the power forward spot,” Majkrzak said. “He started every game this year for us at point guard. I don’t know how many kids in the country have made that transition.”
Fruin is the all-time leading scorer at Turner with 1,985 points, so the responsibility of scoring more next season should not be a problem.
“We kind of need that to come back,” Majkrzak said.
Fruin plans to graduate in December with a degree in marketing. He will then begin work on his Master’s degree, he said.
Graduating in 3½ years while playing scholarship basketball is a feat in itself.
But Fruin downplayed that, as well.
“Some weeks are really challenging,” Fruin said. “You just have to roll with it.”
And Majkrzak is the beneficiary of Fruin’s work on and off the court.
“I couldn’t be happier than he didn’t end up going to Bemidji, because now I got to coach him as a head coach,” Majkrzak said.
Change of plans
Just as every one of us has had to change in the face of the novel coronavirus, basketball coaches are no different.
Besides having to forego the chance to play in national tournaments, coaches now are idle.
“Right now I’d be in Madison watching the boys state tournament,” Majkrzak said Wednesday afternoon.
Recruiting also is on hold.
“We can’t do any visits, so it’s pretty much shut down all our recruiting," he said. "It’s been a really strange time, because not having kids here and no recruiting, it’s kind of ‘what can we do.’”