Willie Morse will never forget his chance meeting with the Friberg family at a State College Starbucks in July 2016.
On a rainy day during Arts Fest, Morse — a former State College standout — met with fellow alum Chad Seifried, who had just put together a comprehensive record book on Little Lions basketball. Seifried gave Morse a copy, one filled with names and numbers pulled from every boxscore from 1934 through 2016. As Morse and Seifried paged through the book, Drew Friberg and his family walked into the coffee shop.
The former Little Lions said hello to the Fribergs — Morse had worked at State College basketball camps when they were in elementary school — and Seifried showed them the record book, detailing everything from games played to free-throw percentage to all-time scoring leaders.
“Your son’s all over this record book already even as a young guy in the program,” Seifried recalled telling Friberg’s father, Andy.
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Since then, Drew Friberg’s numbers have only grown. But how does he stack up with the program’s all-time scoring leaders?
Friberg’s legacy still has a chapter left to be written — the Little Lions open the PIAA Class 6A playoffs against Woodland Hills on Saturday — but, for the others, their storied careers ended long ago.
Here’s a closer look at Friberg and the most prolific scorers in State College history:
Chris Dodds, all-time leading scorer, 1,844 points (1977 graduate)
It’s been more than 40 years, but John Riger vividly remembers the first time he met Chris Dodds.
Riger was in history class his sophomore year at State College when he was asked by his teacher to join him for a walk. They went down the hallway and into the gym, where Dodds was dribbling and shooting.
The teacher wanted to show Riger what the younger kid could do. Riger rebounded for Dodds, standing under the net to collect swish after swish.
“I never saw anybody with a shot like that in my life. I was so blown away,” Riger said. “I never saw anyone shoot with such precision.”
Riger could only shake his head after receiving a sneak preview of the kid who soon became his teammate and State College’s all-time leading scorer. Dodds still owns the two best single-season scoring marks in Little Lions history, according to the team, averaging 32.6 points per game during the 1975-76 season and 28.7 points per game in 1976-77.
And he did it all before the 3-point line even existed.
With his “silky smooth” jump shot, Dodds scored at will for the Little Lions. Dodds studied NBA stars whenever he could, watching games on television and applying what he saw to his game.
He started with the “herky-jerky” spin move of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe when he was in sixth grade, and he learned a stutter-step crossover from Baltimore Bullets guard Archie Clark. He developed his shooting form by watching the legendary Jerry West and ABA star Ralph Simpson, and he was inspired by Nate Archibald and Pete Maravich.
He constantly worked on everything — the spin move, the crossover, the jump shot — and grew up playing pick-up games at Rec Hall. In high school, he raced up and down the floor, knocking down jumpers, spinning past opponents and throwing no-look passes.
“I always felt that I wasn’t just an athlete,” Dodds said. “I’d try to entertain people, too, and make ’em say, ‘Wow, you got to come to these games.’”
Dodds relished playing in front of crowds of 3,000 with State College’s student section, the “Rowdies,” sitting behind one of the baskets. More than four decades later, Dodds can recall those memories with ease. Riger has never forgotten Dodds’ jump shot and said his teammate was “born to play basketball.” Joe Hart, another State College teammate, remembers Dodds’ court vision as much as his prolific scoring ability. Sometimes Hart didn’t even know a pass was coming until it hit him in the head or the chest.
“He was a player like nothing I’d ever seen before,” Hart said. “His feel for the game at that time was unmatched to anybody else. You look at some of the players these days in the last 10 years in college or the pros, and he had all that and more at that time.”
When his high school playing days ended, Dodds was still remembered for his creative flair on the court.
“I was never blessed to see him play,” former State College coach Drew Frank said, alluding to Dodds. “This is a pretty lofty comparison — I’m not saying he’s on that same level — but all I could ever get when anyone would say a comparison, they would always say Pete Maravich. That he was just that good with the ball.”
Rob Krimmel, No. 2 all-time leading scorer, 1,698 points (1992-1996)
Krimmel’s versatile skill-set proved to fit perfectly with then-State College coach Mike Fergus’ offensive philosophy.
At about 6-foot-3, Krimmel could play all five positions on the floor during his high school career, creating mismatches against opposing teams. He could operate in the post and drill 3-pointers.
“Coach Fergus kind of took the mindset now that’s in the NBA. I still remember to this day that if it wasn’t a 3 or a layup, he’d yell at you if you shot that 17-foot jump shot,” said Krimmel, who is currently the head coach at Saint Francis University. “He wanted 3s and layups. Now (Mike) D’Antoni with the Houston Rockets is getting all the credit for it. I wanted to scream, ‘Hey listen, Coach Fergus was yelling at me in 1995 for shooting a 15-foot jump shot.’”
Krimmel credited Fergus for helping him develop into one of the most prolific scorers in State College history. Krimmel, who finished his career in 1996 as the program’s second all-time leading scorer, said Fergus played a role in him becoming a 3-point threat. Fergus put Krimmel in position to thrive in the team’s Princeton offense. The Little Lions looked to feed Krimmel in the post if he had a height advantage. They ran isolations for him to take an overmatched opponent one-on-one. And he routinely stepped out to knock down 3-pointers.
“With Robby, I’d have been an idiot not to play through him,” Fergus said.
Fergus immediately showed his confidence in Krimmel, playing him on the varsity team as a freshman. The veterans on the team embraced Krimmel that season, too. They invited him to play pick-up games at Rec Hall and asked him to shoot around with them during the weekend. Even something as small as saying “Hi” to the freshman in the hallway at school reinforced their belief in him.
“I was always looking out for him,” former State College teammate Jose Mori said. “I knew that some people may be put off by how good he was, and I knew that was going to only help us.”
Mori was a junior when Krimmel was a freshman. He admired his young teammate’s work ethic, recalling that Krimmel started his days with a swimming workout while the rest of the Little Lions were still asleep at 5 a.m. He also boasted an all-around skill-set with his ability to shoot from the perimeter, finish in the paint and knock down free throws.
Krimmel’s role grew each year of his career on his way to finishing with 1,698 points.
“I didn’t realize he had that many points,” Fergus said. “That’s a lot of points.”
Willie Morse, No. 4 all-time leading scorer, 1,497 points (2000-2004)
As a fifth-grader, Morse rode his bike to Our Lady of Victory at 6 a.m. to shoot 30 minutes before school started. As a seventh-grader, Morse completed the preseason conditioning program with the varsity team and attended open gyms.
Throughout his varsity career, Morse regularly called then-State College coach Frank late at night asking to get in the gym the next day.
“I’ve been truly blessed with the quality of the individuals that I was able to coach at State College,” Frank said. “But I don’t know that I could say I had another player with the dedication and the passion for the game of basketball that Willie had.”
Morse proved he belonged on the varsity team as a freshman and went on to score 1,497 points in four years for the Little Lions. Morse, who scored 33 points to help State College beat Chester to capture the state title in 2003, finished his career as the Little Lions’ career leader in 3-pointers, assists and free-throw percentage.
Morse shaped his game through workouts with Seifried — like Friberg now hones his craft with Morse. The workouts with Seifried started when Morse was a freshman. Whenever they were in State College at the same time, they were in the gym.
Morse focused on how to set himself up coming off screens, from reading his defender to knowing when to curl. Morse ran through those drills with State College’s offense in mind, too.
“It wasn’t just about what was best for Willie,” Seifried said. “Sometimes it was about what was best for the team.”
Morse took the same focused approach when Frank let him into the gym to shoot before school. Frank set up the Shoot-A-Way machine to return the balls to Morse, who would arrive looking to improve in specific situations like shooting coming off of a screen. The game consumed him.
“State College basketball was on my mind 24 hours a day,” Morse said. “What do I need to do to be better?”
More than anything, Morse wanted to win.
Frank estimates Morse could have averaged 24 points per game, but the Little Lions didn’t need him to carry the team offensively. As a senior in 2003-2004, Morse averaged 14.7 points, earned first-team all-state honors and led State College to the PIAA semifinals.
“I would have rather sacrificed my points and whatever to be a great, great team. Drew Frank was really big on that,” Morse said. “Coach Frank knew I could have scored 2,000 points, but he drilled in me winning is what matters.”
Drew Friberg, No. 3 all-time leading scorer, 1,623 points (2014-present)
During that chance meeting at Starbucks, Morse offered to work with the Fribergs on their games.
After Morse’s first workout with them, he received a text message the next day from Drew asking to work out again. After the second workout, before Morse went to bed that night, he received another text message with the same request.
The workouts at the Fribergs’ court at Spectra Wood and the text messages from Drew haven’t stopped. Like Morse’s late-night calls to Frank, Friberg sends Morse text messages at 11 p.m. to plan workouts for the following day.
“I joke with him: I probably spend more time with him in the gym than he does with his family,” Morse said.
Morse became a mentor for Friberg through their constant workouts over the past two years. Morse knows how dedicated Friberg has been to improving his game, saying the current State College star “lives basketball 24/7,” so he was ecstatic when Friberg surpassed him on the all-time scoring list this year. Morse celebrated the achievement with him at Texas Roadhouse, making good on a promise to take him out for a steak dinner if the current Little Lions star broke his scoring mark.
Friberg climbed to No. 3 on the all-time scoring list with memorable single-game performances throughout his four-year varsity career. As a freshman, he paced State College with 22 points and went 15 for 15 from the foul line in a loss to Harrisburg in the first round of the state playoffs. This season, Friberg poured in a career-high 49 points in an overtime win over Harrisburg, and dropped 39 points in a win over Milton Hershey in the Mid Penn championship game.
It’s not really more about how many points I score, it’s about what our team is doing. I would do anything to win, so if that meant scoring a lot, then that’s what I’ll do.
“As long as we won, I was happy,” said Friberg, who will continue his career at Princeton. “It’s not really more about how many points I score, it’s about what our team is doing. I would do anything to win, so if that meant scoring a lot, then that’s what I’ll do.”
In the 49-point effort against Harrisburg, a single-game State College record, according to the team, Morse said Friberg never forced a shot. He got everything within the flow of the Little Lions’ offense. When he scored 39 against Milton Hershey, State College coach Joe Walker said he didn’t run a lot of plays for the 6-foot-6 senior. Friberg picked his spots, hitting contested jumpers and finishing 14 for 16 from the foul line.
“I knew he scored a lot, but I didn’t realize he had that many because at points, it’s so easy for him,” Walker said.
No matter how effortless it looks for Friberg, though, he’s never been satisfied — and he’s never been concerned with setting records or scoring points.
“He’s a humble kid. He’s never going to take credit for himself,” Morse said. “He wants to be better. Every moment, every day, that’s what he’s about, and you’re never going to find another more high-quality individual than Drew Friberg.”