High School Sports

State College boys’ basketball star Drew Friberg constantly in the gym working to get better

State High junior Drew Friberg works out on the basketball court in a warehouse at Spectra Wood, his family’s business.
State High junior Drew Friberg works out on the basketball court in a warehouse at Spectra Wood, his family’s business. jboogert@centredaily.com

It’s about 10:30 a.m. Friday when Drew Friberg and his younger brothers arrive at the family business to put in some work.

They slip inside one of Spectra Wood’s warehouses, through a weathered door, and head for the basketball court on the far side of the building. Soon, the echoes of bouncing basketballs fill the warehouse like any gymnasium as Drew, Tommy and Johnny Friberg get shots up. The scene is typical for the brothers since the installation of the court about five or six years ago.

They come here before games to get ready. They come here for workouts to continue to improve. And they come here on days they don’t have practice with the State College boys’ basketball team.

“We’ll just get up some shots, just keep shooting,” Drew Friberg said. “Always got to stay in the flow for the season.”

Drew Friberg is a “gym rat,” according to both his father and his coach. He fell in love with the game at a young age, shooting on a plastic hoop when he was 2 years old, and spent his childhood playing basketball wherever he could. He developed his ability on courts throughout the state and later throughout the country at travel team and AAU tournaments, blossoming into a Division-I recruit and one of the top players in the Mid Penn Conference.

But the court at Spectra Wood gives him a place to shoot when he doesn’t have a practice or a game or a tournament. He can go there with his brothers whenever they want — they have a key — and the State College junior takes advantage of the court at his family’s business.

“If he’s not at the high school gym, he’s there all the time,” Andy Friberg, his father, said. “He’s a gym rat, he’s in the gym all the time.”

Said State College coach Joe Walker: “I doubt that there’s a day goes by that he doesn’t have a ball in his hands.”

It’s shown during Friberg’s junior season.

He’s leading the Little Lions in scoring with 17.2 points per game and shooting a team-best 88 percent from the free-throw line to help the team win both the Mid Penn and District 6 championships and reach the PIAA tournament.

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After adding some facilities at Spectra Wood, a wood furniture manufacturer established in 1969, Andy Friberg decided to use the extra space for a basketball court.

Andy took the kids to churches with gyms in the community, such as St. Paul’s and Mount Nittany United Methodist, to see if they could play there. His sons loved basketball, so they were always looking for somewhere to practice a few days a week with their teams.

“We played down at St. Paul’s, and that brings back memories whenever we go to church and we see the gym,” Drew Friberg said.

Eventually, they didn’t need to find places to practice and play.

Andy installed new lights and painted the walls to turn the warehouse into a gym. They ordered the court through Connor Sports, one of the major companies used by the NCAA. It’s a portable court — Andy said it’s a little shorter than a typical full court — that comes in 4-by-8 sections, features “SPECTRA” graphics along the sidelines and includes the high school and college 3-point lines.

It’s become a second home for the Friberg brothers.

But it’s not the only place Drew Friberg crafted his game.

Growing up, he and his teammates traveled to Williamsport and Chambersburg, where they would take on tougher competition. In sixth grade, Drew joined the Team NJ ABC AAU team and spent every Saturday during the summer playing in outdoor leagues in Brooklyn, where there was an announcer for some games.

Andy said his son, who earned MVP honors that summer, benefited from the experience.

“A lot of people say, “Why is he so calm on the court? He doesn’t seem to be rattled or anything like that,’ ” said Andy, who coached Drew throughout his childhood. “And I said, ‘Well it’s because we’ve been playing very competitive basketball in different areas for a long time and I think it’s just he’s gotten accustomed to it.’ ”

Drew continued to travel and compete against top players with Team Takeover, an AAU team based in Washington, D.C. He started playing with Team Takeover in seventh grade, going to tournaments in various cities, where he’d sightsee with his family.

During the trips to New York City, they took bus tours. This past summer, when basketball took them to Las Vegas, they saw the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon.

“It was fun,” Andy said. “We’ve always approached it as like a family vacation.”

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After this past summer, one filled with personal workouts, tournaments with Team Takeover and open gyms with the high school team, Drew Friberg and his friends played once a week at the Spectra Wood court in the fall.

They played pickup games, five-on-five or four-on-four, depending on numbers.

“We were just having a blast,” Drew Friberg said.

The junior uses the same words to describe this season. The Little Lions won the Mid Penn for the first time in program history and captured their third straight district title. Now, they’ll open state tournament play against the District 7 fourth-place finisher on March 11.

Friberg, who has offers from Penn State, Bucknell and Manhattan, has been at the center of the team’s success.

At 6-foot-6, Friberg can play all five positions, from bringing the ball up the floor as the point guard to operating in the post as the center. This season, Walker said Friberg improved his jump shot and 3-point shooting dramatically.

“I think this year every time it goes up, I think it’s going in,” Walker said.

That’s created problems for opposing coaches trying to devise a plan to stop Friberg.

“I bet it’s a chore,” Walker said with a laugh. “I bet it gives ‘em headaches and I kind of put myself in another coach’s shoes of what do I think they’re going to do? Do I anticipate a box-and-one, maybe?”

Friberg is quick to credit his teammates, who ensure teams can’t focus solely on him and find him for open shots. Friberg has lit up gyms at home and on the road this season, scoring 29 points to surpass the 1,000-point mark in a win over Central Dauphin and pouring in 33 points to lead State College past Trinity in the Mid Penn semifinals.

Friberg scored 22 points in the first half of the win over Trinity.

“That was his best half I’ve ever seen,” said Johnny Friberg, a freshman who played on State College’s JV team this season.

Drew Friberg laid the foundation for success before this season, taking hundreds of shots each day, going through basketball workouts and training with Matt Petrarca to develop his speed and explosiveness, among other things.

Petrarca uses him as an example for other athletes, after getting a sense of Friberg’s commitment to basketball.

“If he’s not in school and he’s not training, he’s going to be shooting,” said Petrarca, a trainer at Results Training Plus.

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Two days after State College captured the district title, Drew Friberg was back at the family business to get some shots up and stay in the flow for the season.

That’s just his nature, his father said.

Drew has loved the game since he started shooting.

“I love hearing the swish through the net,” Drew said. “I played it all the time and so I just fell in love with it.”

Drew and his brothers were back on their court Friday morning on a day off from school and practice.

It’s where they’ve been coming for years to play with friends and work on their games. It’s where Drew hones his jump shot and Tommy workshops his dunking ability. And it’s where Drew and Johnny often play one-on-one after shooting around.

“There’s a rivalry between Johnny and Drew in one-on-one,” said Tommy, who’s enjoyed contributing alongside Drew on the varsity team this season. “Those games get heated.”

Drew fondly recalls going outside to play basketball with his brothers when they were younger.

Now, any chance they get, they head to the family’s court.

Ryne Gery: 814-231-4679, @rgery

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