At halftime of the Vanderbilt-Mississippi State game in the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament Wednesday, Shawnee Mission West graduate Matt Freije was honored as an SEC Legend.
Freije, 32, who starred with the Commodores from 2000-04, was a first-team all-SEC performer as a senior, averaging 18.4 points and 5.4 rebounds.
He helped Vanderbilt reach the Sweet Sixteen that season, scoring 31 points in a 75-73 upset against third-seeded North Carolina State in the tourney’s second round.
He graduated as the Commodores’ all-time leading scorer and third on the career list with 1,891 points in 121 career games.
Freije — who wanted to give a shout out to former Vikings coach Donnie Campbell, who is now the coach at Blue Valley West — was drafted by the Miami Heat in the second round of the 2004 NBA Draft. After he was released, he played for the New Orleans Hornets (2005) and Atlanta Hawks (2007) during a 13-year professional career.
Before retiring last year, Freije also played in Greece, Puerto Rico, Germany, China, Lebanon, Uruguay, the Republic of Georgia and Venezuela.
Freije settled in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, Amy, who he met while in college. He works for Farmington Mortgage and the couple has two children — Benton, 4, and Sophia, 2.
We caught up with Freije for a Q about his life after SM West and Vanderbilt and what it meant to be honored as an SEC Legend:
•Q: How does it work, does someone call and say, “Hey, Matt, you’re an SEC Legend?”
The sports information guy for Vanderbilt, Rod Williamson, gave me a call and just said, “Hey, you want to do this?” And I just said, “Sure.” Free trip to Atlanta? So, I jumped on it, and here I am.
•Q: Were you stunned?
Yeah, I’ve only been done playing for a year, so I was kind of surprised that they asked me right away. But if I’m old enough, then I guess it’s fine.
•Q: What do you remember about your time at Vanderbilt, and how does it feel to be so fondly remembered there?
What I remember the most is how far we came from freshman to seniors. I came in with a group of guys. We stuck together. We were part of coach (Kevin) Stallings’ first recruiting class, and we went from being one of the worst teams in the SEC to making it to the Sweet 16 my senior year. Being around the same guys and improving every single day and every year, was great. And ultimately getting to the point where we could say we had a successful career at Vanderbilt, that was the most rewarding thing.
•Q: Did you bring Amy with you?
Yeah, I brought Amy with me and the kids are at home with my mom and sister. It’s the first break we’ve had since our oldest was born. For four years, it was our first break, so this is nice.
•Q: Do you get back to Kansas City very often, and do you keep up with Shawnee Mission West and the Sunflower League still?
I try to get back as much as possible. Hopefully, now that I’m done playing, I’ll be able to get back more. When I’ve been playing, it’s been difficult to get back. I’ve played everywhere — Asia, Europe, South America. I’ve almost been on every continent.
•Q: If there’s an Antarctican League, would you have found a way to play in it?
Probably. It’s awesome to be settled in one place now, though. The only thing I miss about basketball is playing the games, competing in a game. But the practice, the travel and all that stuff — I don’t miss. Being at home with the kids and my wife every day, it’s a blessing and it’s awesome.