BRADENTON - Michael Frey remembers the first shot he took at as a varsity player.
That's typical. Firsts are particularly memorable, especially when you're a freshman, such as Frey, and you're starting for a tradition-rich boys basketball program, such as Bradenton Christian's.
But Frey remembers this shot for what it didn't do. It didn't hit anything.
Not the rim, not the backboard and sure as heck not the bottom of the net. Frey's first shot - which wound up being BCS' first shot of the season - was an airball.
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The lanky, long-haired Frey laughed about it during Monday's practice, and with good reason. Since chucking that doomed attempt, Frey has morphed into one of the Panthers' most integral pieces.
Though he hasn't had a hand in any of the Panthers' past, and it's hard to think of BCS' present without him.
"He's probably the most mature freshmen I've ever coached," Bradenton Christian coach David Magley said. "He's the one guy that I love for my son Daniel to hang out with, because he has such good judgment. His parents have done a fabulous job."
The svelte Frey looks bigger than most freshmen and plays bigger than most freshmen. The aforementioned airball aside, Frey has helped the Panthers, who host Oldsmar Christian at 7 p.m. tonight in a Class 1A-Region 3 quarterfinal game, record their seventh straight 20-win season and second straight District 12 championship.
The self-described role player is averaging eight points and nearly five rebounds a game, and is shooting 46 percent from the field and 78 percent from the foul line. He's big enough to assist BCS' post players, D.J. Magley and Cole Hudson, inside. But he can shoot, too, which he proved by hitting 3-pointers in key victories over Bradenton Prep and Sarasota Christian, with the latter coming in the district final.
His contributions could not have come at a better time, with BCS losing two of its best shooters from last year, Jeff Wehling and Chase Cofer, to graduation, and its longtime point guard, Kevin Yoder, to a December knee injury.
"Whenever we need him to hit a big shot, he hits it," BCS junior forward Cole Hudson said. "It's so funny - he's just a freshman. When I was a freshman, I was sitting the bench.
"He's good for a freshman. He's done everything we needed him to do."
Frey relocated from Pennsylvania to Florida the summer before he entered sixth grade. After spending one year at Braden River Middle School, he enrolled at Bradenton Christian, giving him enough time to learn about BCS' consistently competitive basketball program.
Consequently, when his name was penciled into the starting lineup, Frey was a little nervous.
"The first game, I had the deer-in-the-headlights look the first play of the game," he said. "The first shot of the season for our team was an airball from me. It was a pretty bad feeling. Going through the year, it's been a lot easier, playing more games and stuff.
"It's actually been a lot of fun."
David Magley said Frey's progression has been easy to spot. He remembers Frey playing like a freshman 95 percent of the game at the beginning of the season, as compared to just 10 percent of the game now.
Frey still has some things to work on, such as seeing more of the court and adjusting to the defense. But that will come with experience.
"Michael is much more skilled, much more mature, and physically, much more ready than D.J. (who also started as a freshman) was," David Magley said. "He still has his moments, but he's really grown up out there."