Note: Saturday's Senior Day will be a BLUE OUT. Fans in attendance will receive a free blue t-shirt. Tipoff in the Skydome versus Weber State at 6:30 p.m.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – It would have been easy to give in after her scholarship fell through at Hampton University. It would have been even easier to give in after breaking her kneecap just weeks before the start of her junior season. But that is not within Amanda Frost and that drive has elevated her to one of the greatest seasons in Northern Arizona women's basketball history.
"I was already devastated my first year because my scholarship got messed up and then when I first broke my kneecap, I thought it was a sign for me to stop playing," Frost said. "I loved the sport too much to stop though and I wanted to prove everyone wrong that said I wouldn't come back and play. That's always motivation when someone says you can't do something; you come back stronger than they thought you could."
Frost has had quite the journey after a standout career at John W. North High School in her hometown of Riverside, Calif. After earning her high school's Athlete of the Year and being named to First Team All-CIF, Frost made the trip east to Hampton but left after a semester in a bind due to a scholarship mishap. She landed back home in her home state at Fullerton College where she once again starred, earning All-California Community College Athletic Association and all-conference first team honors.
She had her eyes on returning to the Division I level though and Hampton's loss turned into NAU's gain. In her first season with the Lumberjacks during the 2011-12 season, Frost appeared in all 29 games. She started just nine games and played 20.6 minutes per game, but made an immediate impact as the team's second-leading scorer at 8.6 points per game and leading the team with 45 three-pointers made. If people did not know her at the time, she burst into the spotlight nailing six three-pointers on her way to a season-high 24 points in NAU's near double overtime upset of Nebraska at home.
Her first season in Flagstaff was a success and Frost appeared to be on the verge of a breakout junior campaign. Then came her devastating preseason kneecap injury that was projected to sideline her for most if not all of the 2012-13 season.
"The first time I met her, she was chomping at the bit to get going and then she had a setback which was a freakish accident," said head coach Sue Darling, who was weeks away from coaching her first game at NAU at the time of Frost's injury. "It could've devastated her and it did at first, but she bounced back like she bounces back from everything. She went on to have a great second half of the season and has been the heart and soul of our team this year."
Not only did Frost return much earlier than projected, but she came back with a vengeance. In her first game of the season just two months after her injury, she dropped 27 points, a career-high at the time, at Southern Utah to earn her second career Big Sky Player of the Week honor. Despite missing the first 11 games of the season, she once again ranked second on the team with 9.9 points per game starting 17 of the last 18 games. She saw her playing time increase to 31.9 minutes per game, but her three-point percentage dropped from 36 percent to 30.9 percent between her first two seasons.
With Amy Patton, the school's all-time leading scorer, graduated, Frost went into this season as the team's go-to scorer. Not only would she be counted on to carry the team, but with eight new freshmen – 10 newcomers in all – the team's only senior would have to shoulder a large leadership role, something she has flourished with.
"When you're trying to change the culture of a program with a new coaching staff, to have a kid play as hard as she does is the foundation of what we're trying to accomplish," Darling said. "She's laid a great foundation for me, the rest of our coaching staff and the rest of the kids to build upon. She plays great team basketball and she's the epitome of this program."
Frost enters her final home game of her Lumberjack career on Saturday as the Big Sky's leading scorer with 22.0 points per game, ranking 15th in the country. The drop in three-point percentage was a blip on the radar as she has established herself as one of the conference's lethal sharp shooters at 37.7 percent. She is among the country's best in free-throw shooting at 88 percent and is also among the Big Sky's elite defenders with a team-leading 59 steals. This season she has received three Big Sky Player of the Week awards.
Her senior season will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, seasons in school history. On Feb. 22 at Northern Colorado, she broke Patton's single-season scoring record with 571 points and counting and is on pace to break the season records for scoring average, field goals made, three-pointers made per game and free throw percentage while ranking in the top-10 in several other categories. With 998 career points, she will become the 14th Lumberjack to join the 1,000 point career club with her first bucket on Saturday despite playing essentially two and a half years.
She may have records to her name when it is all said and done, team success is all she has been concerned with as she's never reached the Big Sky tournament.
"Team success has always been my number one goal," Frost said. "Setting records have come along with that but that's never been my focus. I've always wanted wins or to make the playoffs. I do whatever it takes to help the team and I guess I've set records. It's a cool accomplishment."
Along with her humility and her picturesque jump shot, her drive and competitiveness is what sets her apart from the rest.
"Amanda has a fire to her that is unmatched and I've been coaching for a long time," Darling said. "There's a deep passion and motor, so it really is her heartbeat that leads her and that has affected our program so tremendously. You don't have the chance to coach too many kids like her. She's got a really good head on her shoulders and she's just one of those kids that is going to go places in life. It's been fun to be around her the last two years."
"My overall experience at NAU has been a good one," Frost said reflecting on her time at NAU. "I have another family outside of my real family. I grew up playing basketball with the boys around my neighborhood and I'll remember the memories I had with my teammates who became my sisters. NAU became a home for me over the last three years."
Majoring in sociology with a minor in physical education, Frost will graduate in May. After that, her future story remains unwritten. She aspires to play professionally whether that is in the WNBA or overseas.
If there are doubters whether it is a dream worth chasing, do not bet against Frost. After all, she has proven it time and time again that she has the heart to overcome the odds.