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Flames Feature: The Worst of Times, The Best of Times
"A Tale of Two Cities" represents one of Charles Dickens' defining works as an author. Meanwhile, two very different halves of basketball speak volumes about Liberty sophomore guard/forward Megan Frazee as a basketball player and, more importantly, as a person.
Frazee's tale commences early in the second half of a conference game against Coastal Carolina at the Vines Center on Jan. 16, 2006. A highly-touted recruit and one of three freshman triplets on the Liberty women's basketball roster, the 6-3 Ohio native had not disappointed.
She had filled much of the scoring void created by the graduation of talented players like Katie Feenstra, Daina Staugaitiene and Kristal Tharp, tallying seven 20-point performances during the first 13 games of her Liberty career. Frazee did more than put points on the board. She was the Lady Flames' leading rebounder and had posted nine double-doubles before the Chanticleers came to town.
Frazee was well on her way to notching double-double number 10 when misfortune struck. She had recorded nine points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes of action prior to suffering a knee injury shortly after halftime. Even though Frazee jogged and stretched on the sideline and entertained thoughts of returning to the court in what turned out to be a close game, the results of her MRI later that week confirmed the worst.
The talented freshman had suffered a complete tear of her anterior cruciate ligament and the initial estimate was that it would take a full year for Frazee to completely recover from the injury. An extremely promising career had been put on hold.
Now, fast forward 10 months. Recovering far ahead of schedule, Frazee has not only returned to the Liberty lineup, but has returned to her old ways of filling the stat sheet. In just 21 minutes, Frazee recorded 19 points, 13 boards and six assists in her first game back against Norfolk State. She then contributed 25 points, 12 caroms and a trio of steals three days later during a come-from-behind win at George Mason.
Was Frazee really completely healthy so soon, or was she taking advantage of some less-than-stellar opposition? The 3,050 fans in attendance at Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena on Nov. 20, 2006 found out the answer to that question loud and clear.
The sophomore had been limited to just six points as the homestanding Cavaliers took a 34-32 lead into halftime. Frazee then took the game over during the final 20 minutes of play. She tallied Liberty's first 19 points of the second half and, when all was said and done, had recorded 31 of her career-high 37 points after the intermission in an almost magical performance.
Most notably, Frazee's efforts had played a key role in a 75-71 victory for the Lady Flames over their in-state rivals, which marked Virginia's initial setback at its new arena. Not only had she scorched the nets, but had also corralled a game-high 15 rebounds, dished out a pair of assists and blocked a key shot during the final minute of play.
The fact that Frazee was back on the hardwood so soon, much less slicing and dicing a talented ACC foe, is a testament to a number of factors. "First of all, I have to thank God," she noted. "I was also blessed with a trainer and a physical therapist who were very good. All of my teammates supported and encouraged me through the whole process. Also, Coach (Olaf) Lange was able to help me quite a bit after I was allowed to start shooting and jumping off one leg again."
What Frazee did not mention during her list of thank-yous is the fact that she spent at least three to four hours every day rehabbing her knee in the swimming pool, doing exercises on the sideline as her teammates practiced and in whatever other ways were prescribed.
"After my first couple weeks of rehab, I was already ahead of schedule. I knew the many prayers that were being lifted up on my behalf were having an affect," the always gracious Frazee said.
The hard work and determination required of Frazee throughout her rehabilitation and recovery may not have seemed notable to her because such traits are commonplace for her. In addition to striving to improve her game on the basketball court, the kinesiology major is diligent in her studies and has been a regular member of the Dean's List since her arrival on campus.
Another factor in Frazee's rapid and complete recovery from a severe knee injury is explained by her admission that, "I enjoy a challenge." She took on the challenge of making a successful comeback and successfully met the objective. With that challenge behind her, the sophomore has reveled in the difficult non-conference slate Carey Green organized for Frazee and her teammates this season, including the aforementioned tilt at Virginia.
"It's your natural tendency to step up a level against tough competition," Frazee explained. "I just like to go out and have fun against those teams. My favorite time is playing against tough competition. Those are the games where you realize what you need to work on and get good experience under your belt."
Frazee certainly has stepped up a level against some of the most talented opponents Liberty has faced during her first two seasons. In addition to her career night at Virginia, Frazee posted 28 points and 10 rebounds at nationally-ranked George Washington earlier this season. As a freshman, her highest scoring output came at N.C. State (29 points) and she pulled down a season-best 15 rebounds at North Carolina.
Despite Frazee's gaudy numbers, the Lady Flames lost each of those games, a fact which gnaws at her competitiveness. "I'd rather score 10 points and have our team win than score 30 and see us lose," noted Frazee. "We now know that we can hang with those teams, though. We have the talent, the depth on our bench and are more experienced this year. Our big thing is finishing strong and playing our game for a full 40 minutes. We can beat these teams and it will come with experience."
Frazee and the Lady Flames are hoping their ambitious non-conference schedule has adequately prepared the team to capture its 11th-consecutive Big South Conference Championship and earn a match-up against yet another talented opponent in the NCAA Tournament.
With such a challenge ahead of her, Liberty fans can expect to see a few more chapters written in Megan Frazee's tale by season's end. Less than 40 games into her collegiate career, it is certain the finest pages have yet to be penned.
By Paul Carmany
Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director