Who’s got next?
That’s a question that the Lamar Cardinals found themselves asking after the 2015-16 season.
Things started out so well, as the team started the year 9-4, and looked to be a legitimate contender for the Southland Conference title.
But, in the end, their season was like comparing night and day.
Lamar struggled down the stretch in conference play, finishing the year at 11-19 overall, and just 3-15 against conference opponents.
While they faltered, the future looks bright down in Beaumont, TX. With the emergence of freshman guard Nick Garth and freshman forward Dorian Chatman last season, the foundation has been set.
Despite the emergence of two future stars, the Cardinals also said goodbye to veteran point guard Kevin Booze, who was dismissed from the program at season’s end. That left a hole in the back court that needed to be filled.
Head Coach Tic Price and his coaching staff hit the recruiting trail hard this off-season, bringing in strong recruits to bolster the roster at various positions. Then, on April 13th, the Cardinals got a commitment from a point guard that they had coveted from the beginning.
Enter Hill College transfer Joey Frenchwood.
At every level he’s played at so far in his young career, Frenchwood has taken home some high profile individual awards, to go along with team success.
In high school, he was a three-time All-District Selection, and took home one District MVP award. Last year at Hill College, Frenchwood was a First-Team All-Conference selection after helping to lead his team to a 22-9 record overall, and a post-season appearance.
When asked about the keys to his individual success, he owes it all to hard work.
“Working hard and using every bit of negativity as motivation,” said Frenchwood. “I also have some great people in my ear.”
Playing with Lamar will be Frenchwood’s second stint at the Division I level. Out of high school, he played in 24 games with the Montana State Bobcats back in 2014-15, making 10 starts that season.
Having the experience of playing at the Division I level will make the transition much easier for the 6’1” guard out of Newark, California. Having been there before, he knows what it takes, and will look to take on a leadership role with his new team.
But, it’s his experience with the Hill College Rebels that will stick with him wherever he goes. It set him up for success at the top level, and he will never forget the group of guys he played with on a nightly basis.
“One of the most unselfish group of guys I’ve dealt with,” said Frenchwood, reflecting back on the 2015-16 year with the Rebels. “I love them all to death.”
“It was easy to play with guys who are willing to make the extra pass. I’m going to miss this year more than anything.”
Frenchwood isn’t the only player from last year’s team to commit to a Division I school next year. The likes of Devocio Butler (Colorado State Rams), Jemerrio Jones (Western Kentucky Hilltoppers), and Michael Mayhew (Portland State Vikings) have all committed to play at the next level, while others from the team have either accepted or are considering their options.
It would be intriguing to see who would come out on top if two Hill College alum squared off on the hardwood. If Frenchwood and the Cardinals squared off against Butler and the Rams on a neutral court, it’s clear who the point guard thinks will come away with the win.
“Lamar, no question,” laughed Frenchwood. “That’d be fun though. I hope the day comes.”
Don’t we all. Seeing two friends square off against one another would be must-see television.
Without having played a game for the Cardinals, Coach Price had some high praise for his new point guard. He described Frenchwood as a “pass-first point guard who doesn’t turn the ball over, and a player who brings a high basketball IQ with him.”
Frenchwood sees himself in a similar light.
“I love the feeling of dishing out an assist,” said Frenchwood. “I like to think of myself as a guy that can do multiple things for his team.”
“Score when needed, defend, whatever the team needs I’ll bring.”
With Price’s high praise for the point guard fresh in their minds, the coaching staff at Lamar made him a priority from the start of the recruiting season. That was a big factor in Frenchwood’s ultimate decision to commit to the Cardinals over some ‘higher-profile’ schools.
“They did a great job at recruiting me,” said Frenchwood. “Although I might have higher schools recruiting me, they stayed with me throughout the year.”
“I felt at home.”
Considering his hometown of Newark, California is 1,989 miles away from Beaumont, Texas, feeling like ‘home’ is a good feeling to have.
With the void on the back end now filled, the Cardinals have two top-tier guards who form one of the top tandems in the Southland Conference. Garth and Frenchwood give Coach Price a reliable pair, with Garth assuming the role of a scoring guard and Frenchwood running the offense.
Frenchwood has the confidence in himself to become a star at the Division I level, and the talent to match. Armed with previous experience at the top level, and having put together an impressive year at Hill College, he’s ready to take the NCAA by storm.
Joey Frenchwood. Remember the name.
He’s got next.