Matchup against Auburn offers Missouri assistant a chance to reflect on basketball journey

From Georgia to Auburn to Sweden and back again, Katie Frerking’s story has been defined by basketball’s many twists and turns.
Katie Frerking looks to make a pass during Auburn Women's Basketball vs. Mississippi State on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 in Auburn, Ala. Madison Ogletree, photo editor, The Auburn Plainsman

Katie Frerking’s former Auburn teammates raced up and down the court at Mizzou Arena on Sunday, directed by her former coach.

Frerking was happy to see everyone again, but there was a catch this time. After a decorated career in the orange and blue, she now spends her game days with Tigers of a different color.

“It was honestly weird,” Frerking said. “It was really good to see everybody… [but] it was just kind of weird sitting over there and watching them play and being on the other side of it.”

Frerking is now a graduate student manager for Missouri women’s basketball, and on Sunday afternoon, she helped her new team take down her old companions, 74-65. The confluence of her past and present domains offered a chance to reflect on the journey that brought her from stardom at one SEC school to a new role at another.

Frerking came to Auburn in 2013 on the back of a highly successful high school career. A Johns Creek, Georgia native, she led Wesleyan, a small Christian preparatory school, to four consecutive state championships. In her senior season, she was named National Player of the Year by the National Christian School Athletic Association.

Her stardom continued through her college years, where versatility proved to be one of her best assets at Auburn.

“Katie was an unbelievable student-athlete,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said after Sunday’s game. “She would play any position that we asked her, whatever we needed for her to do. She was just an unbelievable player, and by her senior year became one of the best players in the SEC.”

Frerking would finish her Auburn career with three SEC Academic Honor Roll appearances and an All-SEC second team recognition. She became the program’s second player ever to rack up at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists and 200 steals in her four years.

Professional basketball was Frerking’s next step. She suited up for Lulea Basket, a team in Sweden’s highest division, in fall 2017. But it wouldn’t be long before everything changed.

“I planned to play for four or five years when I got out of school, and then ... God kind of took me in a different direction,” Frerking said.

In December 2017, just a few months into her professional career, Frerking tore the ACL in her right knee while playing for Lulea. With months of recovery ahead of her, she returned home.

Frerking says she always enjoys visits to her alma mater, and it was on such a trip when her next opportunity arose. Two months after her injury, she was in Auburn, Alabama, for a game between Auburn and Missouri.

“[I] just ended up talking to [Missouri coach Robin Pingeton] after the game, and she was asking about my plans for next year,” Frerking said. “She just happened to have a [graduate student manager] spot open.”

Frerking was already familiar with Pingeton and her staff, having been recruited by Missouri out of high school. While she ultimately settled on Auburn, she maintained contact with Mizzou’s program as an opposing player during her college career.

As Frerking’s ACL recovery continued into the summer, it became clear that a return to Sweden for the 2018-19 season was not in the cards. She got back in touch with Pingeton, and before long, she was headed to Columbia to join a new set of Tigers.

Frerking’s new position is unlike anything she has experienced in her basketball career. For the first time in years, she is not a prominent face on her team. She spends practices helping out with drills and refereeing scrimmages. During games, she sits on the end of the bench, running the team’s shot chart. But her past career as a player and her ability to relate to the student-athlete experience are what make her an asset to Missouri’s team.

“Katie’s been great,” Pingeton said after Sunday’s contest. “She’s had to work her way to being an SEC player, and as a freshman, her minutes were up and down. She’s got a blue-collar mentality, and she’s an all-SEC player, so she can relate to a lot of our players on different levels about the process.”

Frerking is enrolled in MU’s positive coaching master’s program, an online program commonly taken by graduate student managers. She doesn’t yet know if she will make another run at a professional basketball career – she now has an injury history in both her knees after tearing her left ACL in high school – but sports have always been a passion of hers, and she would be happy to do something in the realm of athletics.

“I’ve played basketball my whole life, but my favorite sport is football,” Frerking said. “I’d love to stay in sports or do something with that, but I’m definitely not tied down to that.”

Williams-Flournoy and Pingeton both praised Frerking for her work ethic and character. As her journey came full circle on Sunday, those qualities shone through as she reflected on what her future might hold.

“I’m still kind of in a phase where I don’t know exactly what I want to do,” Frerking said. “I’m open to a lot of different things, so I’ll see what doors God opens, and hopefully be willing to walk through.”

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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