Channing Frye, good guy, pretty good basketball player and great quote, was back in McKale Center, the place that started out his very good college career and spearheaded his 13 years in the NBA.
Yes, 13-year NBA career and who would have thought that back in 2001 when this skinny kid from Phoenix St. Mary’s arrived on campus to play for Lute Olson?
And yet, Frye defied the odds, becoming an NBA lottery pick and NBA champion. You can’t make this stuff up. Still, he’s one of the all-time best players when it comes to improving his game – start to finish.
“You know what, no, I thought was gonna be out of the league twice,” said Frye when I asked if he’d last 13 years in the NBA. “When I was in Portland, I didn’t really know who I was going to be as a player. (Then, he) got the opportunity from Steve Kerr and Alvin Gentry and David Griffin to go to Phoenix, and they were like, ‘we know you could shoot, we know you’re good at this. Be this for us.’ And it catapulted my career.
“And then when I had that heart issue for the year, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play. So, I valued my years playing, whether they were good teams or bad teams and I just enjoyed the opportunity to meet all these awesome guys.”
And, as they say, the rest is history. Seemingly – and in a blink – he’s now retired from the NBA after making a reported $67 million playing for six different teams.
He was back at his ol’ rebounding grounds on Monday to be the master of ceremonies for Arizona’s annual CATSY’s, a tribute to its student-athletes. He said his message to the student’s would be to embrace the experience.
“Take time to get to know your fellow student athletes,” he said. “Like I said on my Instagram story, I’m still friends with (former UA student-athletes) Jennifer Abernathy, Kim Glass, all those girls, anybody from different sports. These are like my friends like we’ve been through thick and thin of things and always battling and working out. We see each other’s sacrifice and we all love Arizona. So, help that bring you together and just have a good time.”
As he met with some local reporters in advance of the show, he said he spent time on campus. And, well, things have changed since his time here which ended in 2005.
“Just the dynamics, the diversity, like how many new buildings (there are), the advancements and everything,” he said. “It has been amazing; I think the city of Tucson is flourishing. And it’s awesome. We were eating at Frog (and Firkin) and we’re just like, ‘man, like, could you imagine having a little train or a trolley that took you from this side to that side?’ You had to find somebody who wasn’t drinking to get you a ride to this side.”
He smiled – after that. But seemingly Frye always smiled while on campus. He was a fan favorite and a media darling, given that he’s affable and clever with the lines. It’s also no surprise, he like many other former Arizona Wildcats in the Lute Olson era, end up in the media business. That’s likely where he’s headed, although nothing is official. He’s already done some work with ESPN, NBA TV among others. He might even coach down the road.
“I think for me that’s where I could talk basketball, I can help bridge the gap,” he said, of being part of the media. “I think sometimes basketball seems complicated and sometimes if you just break it down to simple things it’s going to help the fan, the person watching, watch it more and understand it.”
For now, he’s in just his first week of retirement – at the young age of 35. He turns 36 next month. How is it?
“It’s great. I’m chilling. My body is rested,” he said. “No expectations on needing to be in shape all the time. Had me a nice couple wings this afternoon. I thought about getting on a bike and I said, ‘eh what for?’ So, for me it’s just embracing it. Somebody says, ‘What are you gonna do?’ I said anything. For the last 27 years somebody said when to wake up, how to eat, how to work out. Now it’s more like what do I need and what am I going to be happy doing next? So, it’s been pretty awesome.”