Rogers City senior Nick Freel surpasses 1,000 career points

News File Photo Rogers City’s Nick Freel (2), seen here scoring in a home game vs. Whittemore-Prescott last season, surpassed 1,000 career points in Friday’s win at Posen.

ROGERS CITY — Now that Rogers City senior Nick Freel has surpassed the 1,000 point mark, he figures it is safe to let everyone in on his secret pregame routine.

“Usually, I put on some of my music, sit back and relax, eat a peanut butter sandwich and chill before the games to keep my mind calm, and not get too nervous,” Freel said. “My dad says it is good to eat them before games, so I listen to him and it has worked out so far.”

Those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are clearly working for Freel. He has averaged about 25 points and nine rebounds per game this season alone, and he managed to surpass the century mark for career points in Friday’s 77-69 victory at Posen.

“Ever since I was in seventh grade that was one of my big goals,” Freel, who sits at 1,039 career points said. “I think the game plan that (head coach Matt Ponik) is putting together for me (is key). He has found out all the right spots where I need to play, switching me from point guard, all the way down to center and to wing. He has been trying to make the offense around me and giving me that freedom and with the guys that I have around me, that has helped me be successful.”

Freel’s willingness to play any position on the court, his positive attitude and of course his ability to dominate a game have certainly endeared him to his head coach.

“He is a great kid, he doesn’t say a whole lot but he loves the game of basketball and loves to be around it,” Ponik said. “I pulled him up to varsity as a freshman knowing he could do great things and he has. He has led the team in scoring and rebounding the last two years. One thing I was impressed with about him is that when I asked him to get into the post and be more physical (he did it). At first he struggled, but he has gotten used to it. This year he has been thrust into being the point guard and running the whole show and he has done well.”

“He just has a drive for the game and a love for the game,” Ponik added. “He loves to compete and you can see it in how hard he competes in how bad he wants it.”

What makes Freel’s career accomplishments all the more amazing, is that he has put up these numbers, despite the oppositions’ best efforts to shut him down.

“Most teams, their whole focus is to key on Nick,” Ponik said. “It is hard for him sometimes to be the guy and have the pressure on him to produce but I think he has had this success because of how much he knows about the game and how much he has wanted to become a better player. He is going to do great things in life and he has been a privilege to coach.”

Freel has helped the Hurons win each of their past four games, including a thrilling one-point win over Alpena last week; setting them up with an 8-5 record with just a week left in the regular season.

The uncertainty surrounding whether there was even going to be a season or not, made Freel appreciative of being able to hit the court this winter. After all, Rogers City’s season, like many teams in the state, was cut short last winter, when its district final game with Oscoda was postponed and eventually cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Not being able to play Oscoda last year was tough,” Freel said. “We had all those seniors and after we beat Alcona (in the first round) we were pumped up. The night we played Whittemore-Prescott (in the district semifinals) we heard we might not be able to have fans and then it went from not having fans to not being able to play; that was tough. It is awesome to be playing, even though the season had to be shortened and we have to wear masks, but still, just to be able to play, it is awesome.”

With the boys’ basketball district starting March 23, Freel knows it is going to be tough to earn some postseason hardware. The Hurons serve as the host school, but will have to go up against the likes of an Alcona team that they split with during the regular season and Tawas; a squad that defeated them back on March 4. Plus, at some point they are likely to have to contend with second-ranked Oscoda, who has mostly been unchallenged by area teams this winter.

“I want to win districts, I want to go as far as possible, but you have to take it one game at time,” Freel said. “Oscoda is a very, very good team and they have some very good players and are a good group of guys. We just can’t be going in. We have to go in there with the same amount of energy and thinking we have the same amount of talent and overcome it.”

While his high school basketball career will be ending in the coming weeks, Freel is hoping to find a college to keep playing at.

“I would like to play in college, for sure,” he said, adding that Alpena Community College may be an option.

So, the question begs to be asked. Will Freel keep eating those peanut butter and jelly and sandwiches before his collegiate games?

“Those have been helping me all the way through high school,” he said. “I have to keep that going.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today