WHAT A LONG, STRANGE TRIP IT'S BEEN FOR UNLV'S FRöHLICH
By Lina Balciunas
During a tour of the WNBA offices last week, Linda Fröhlich remarked that she might have to come back for an overnight stay because she hadn't had enough time to see New York before the draft. "We had about 30 minutes to see the city, to walk around by ourselves," the UNLV forward said wryly. "Which is like, probably three blocks that you can make in that time."
"Probably the headline is like, crazy. A lot of emotions," Fröhlich tried to put her draft day experience into words. "A lot of still not comprehending what is actually going on. Thankfulness. A great day. A dream come true. Who would have ever thought that I would make it?"
The surprise is not that she would make it in basketball, where she has the height (6-2), the skills (UNLV's all-time leading scorer) and the pedigree (her mother played for the Latvian National Team) to be a success. But her greatest challenges have come off the court, with New York being just the latest adjustment in a very long, very strange trip for Fröhlich.
Fröhlich grew up in Oldendorf, Germany, a place she terms "your typical village with about 2,000 people." Along with three sisters and a brother, all younger, she spent her childhood in a Mayberry-type existence: playing outside, gardening, taking care of a menagerie of pets. She didn't even start off playing basketball. Fröhlich says her mother discouraged it, but only after "I failed in ballet, judo, etc. due to my height, she agreed that I could step into the basketball gym."
Fröhlich quickly excelled in the sport, joining the German National Team when she was just 14. However, she was hesitant to take her game to the next level. "I was offered to become a professional at the age of 16 -- professional in the sense of going to other cities, getting paid and I never left just because I was like, I still want to be a child," Fröhlich said. "That's the bond that I have with my family. They're my everything."
Which makes it amazing that she would choose to leave her family, her home and her country to go to college in the United States.
Just imagine. Coming from a small village in Germany and your first experience living in the United States is in Las Vegas.
"I think, for two or three years, I did think that's America. I thought Las Vegas was America," Fröhlich laughed. And then the more people I got to know from other parts of the country, they're like, no, that's not it. America is actually normal."
Not that she knew anything about Las Vegas before arriving, instead she chose UNLV based on her faith in head coach Regina Miller who "pulled" Fröhlich to the program with promises of "wins and fun playing basketball." Fröhlich went on to star for the Lady Rebels throughout her collegiate career, as the three-time Mountain West Player of the Year, an AP All-America Third Team selection and leaves as UNLV's all-time leading scorer (2,355) and the first Lady Rebel to record 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds (1,124). She averaged 21.2 points and 10.1 rebounds at UNLV and as a senior, led the Lady Rebels to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1994.
After four years in Las Vegas, Fröhlich has adjusted to a lifestyle in America unfamiliar even to most Americans. She speaks flawless English, with the slightest hint of a German accent and has mastered the American slang. She helps her family and friends keep up with her from half a world away via her own website at www.lindafrohlich.com. But now everything starts over, as Fröhlich enters the next phase of her life.
"I'm looking forward to just playing in the WNBA," she said. "Learning new things, growing as a person, growing as a player, all those things that are already a big challenge. It hasn't started yet, but it's already a challenge to reach that. And just experiencing New York from a residential point of view, not as a tourist."
Ah yes, New York ... perhaps the only place that could trump Las Vegas among daunting American cities. And while Fröhlich is no longer the na´ve German villager, neither is she cavalier about the new transition that awaits her.
"I did think that the transition from Germany to Las Vegas would be big. And I did think there was nothing bigger," Fröhlich sighed. "But I think New York is a little bigger."
As the saying goes, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
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