With its array of long-range offensive weapons constantly at the ready, the Whitworth men’s basketball team occasionally tends to overlook Felix Friedt.
All 242 pounds of him.
And when it does – and the perimeter jump shots aren’t falling – the Pirates (26-1) can look very average, instead of like the the team that is again ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division III.
“Sometimes we get too attached to the 3-point shot,” admitted Bucs coach Jim Hayford.
Which is understandable, considering the Pirates rank No. 4 nationally with a 3-point field goal percentage of 41.7 percent (277 of 664), and have two players – Michael Taylor and Jack Loofburrown – shooting more than 46 percent from beyond the arc.
“And when we do, we don’t get Felix enough touches on the interior,” Hayford added.
That problem plagued Whitworth during the recently completed Northwest Conference tournament, with the 6-foot-8 junior taking only four total shots and going scoreless in the opening 20 minutes of both a 74-63 semifinal victory over Pacific Lutheran on Thursday and a 74-50 rout of Whitman in Saturday’s championship game.
But in the second half of those games, Friedt finished a combined 10 of 10 from the field, 7 of 8 from the foul line and scored 27 points – 16 of which came in the title game, when the Pirates outscored Whitman 48-24 after intermission.
“First of all, that’s not Felix,” Taylor, the Bucs’ leading scorer, said of Friedt’s recent lack of first-half production. “When he plays Felix Friedt basketball – aggressive, busting his butt to the rim, getting rebounds and making those close shots – that’s when he’s at his best.
“Other teams have to double-team him, or they have to help, because he shoots such a great percentage. And that really opens things up for the rest of us.”
Friedt, a second-team All-NWC selection and third-team Capital One Academic All-American, is shooting 59.3 percent (108 of 182) from the field and averaging 12.4 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
But he admits those numbers could – and probably should – be higher.
“Sometimes, I’m not as assertive as I should be,” said the junior from Dusseldorf, Germany, who is reluctant to demand the basketball on the low blocks, even when his teammates aren’t getting it done on the perimeter.
“He’s just not that kind of kid,” Hayford said. “He’s such a team guy, and so unselfish, he’s not comfortable asking for the ball.
“But obviously, we hope in the postseason, to get him involved a lot earlier.”
Pirates seeded No. 1
Whitworth (26-1), seeded No. 1 in the 61-team Division III men’s basketball tournament, will host the winner of Thursday’s first-round matchup between Chapman (24-3) and Redlands (16-11) in a 7 p.m. second-round game at Whitworth Fieldhouse on Saturday.
Reserved seats are sold out, but 1,600 general admissions tickets ($10 for adults; $5 for students, seniors and children) will be available at the door.
Redlands is at Chapman in Orange, Calif., in Thursday’s opening round.