When Sam Freeman shoots the basketball, you half expect an angel choir to start singing backup, his stroke is that pure.
“It’s just effortless,” analyzed Adam Friesen, Freeman’s coach with the University of the Fraser Valley men’s team. “He’s got one of the best wrists I’ve ever seen. He can shoot with a free throw type of effort and hit NBA threes with ease, with great arc and perfect rotation . . .”
Then Friesen stopped midsentence, chuckled, and allowed himself to simply be a fan.
“I don’t know technically why it happens that way, and I don’t care,” he said with a grin. “It happens, and it really is great to watch.”
When Freeman closed the book on his fifth and final regular season in Cascades colours last week, he found himself in second place on the Canada West conference all-time list in terms of three-pointers made. (A top 10 list is at the bottom of this page.) He’s knocked down a remarkable 252 treys – only ex-University of Regina gunner Jeff Lukomski (308) has made more, and he took 218 more attempts to get there.
Freeman, a 6’3″ shooting guard out of Coquitlam’s Dr. Charles Best Secondary, has been an impact player with the Cascades ever since his freshman campaign of 2008-09, when he was named the Canada West rookie of the year.
But this season has been a breakout of sorts. With Joel Friesen, formerly UFV’s main man on the perimeter, transferring to the University of Alberta last summer, Freeman has had more opportunity to showcase his all-around game, handling the ball and driving to the hoop.
He’s made the most of it – despite battling through a litany of injuries, including a broken bone in his shooting hand, a concussion and displaced ribs, his career-high 21.6 points per game were good for second in Canada West.
Freeman is also 15th on the conference’s all-time scoring list with 1,611 points – tops among active players – and at his senior night last Friday, Friesen called him one of the best players, if not the best, in program history.
“That’s a huge thing,” Freeman marveled, “to put on this jersey and have people consider you the best. I couldn’t be happier with how my career’s turned out. It’s been a fairy tale for me, and it’s not over yet.”
The stories of Freeman’s shooting prowess will surely fade into legend at UFV. His most memorable shot was the game-winning trey he hit against Trinity Western in the 2011 playoffs, turning a late two-point deficit into a one-point win.
Then there was last Friday’s game, also vs. TWU. The Cascades found out in the morning that they’d been stripped of two wins due to the use of an ineligible player, putting their playoff status in limbo. But in a pre-game conversation with his father and Coach Friesen, Freeman put their minds at ease.
“He put his arm around his dad, looked at me and said, ‘There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll be hitting my shots,'” Friesen related.
Then Freeman went out and poured in 32 points, going 5-for-6 from beyond the arc as UFV re-clinched their playoff berth with a victory.
The day-to-day excellence might be what impresses Friesen the most. He’ll give the team a shooting drill during practice where each player has to hit X number of threes or free throws, and Freeman will be finished before anyone else is half done.
“His bad is better than most people’s great,” Friesen marveled. “And his great is just awesome to watch.”
Freeman’s shooting ability has opened up another powerful weapon in his offensive arsenal – the pump fake. It’s effective to a comical degree, because opponents are so fixated on taking away his three-point shot.
It’s not an official stat by any stretch, but Freeman has to be the Canada West leader in the number of airborne opponents left flailing as he drives past them after feigning a shot.
“It’s more like an eyebrow fake, I swear,” Freeman said with a chuckle. “I see guys coming, and I can see it in their eyes – they want to jump (to challenge the shot). Ever since my rookie year, guys have been jumping.”
After graduation, Freeman plans to pursue a pro basketball career in Europe. But in the short term, he’s focused on extending his Cascades career with a deep playoff run. The UFV men (10-12) head to Saskatoon this weekend for a best-of-three series against the Saskatchewan Huskies (16-6), the top seed in the Prairie Division and the No. 7-ranked team in the nation.
“We’re trying to write a Cinderella story here,” Freeman said. “With all the adversity we’ve gone through with this team, it’s been a roller-coaster. But we’re such a strong group.
“For playoffs, we just need to focus on sticking together – playing strong, taking each possession seriously, not taking anything for granted. Just playing our hearts out.”
CANADA WEST MEN’S BASKETBALL
ALL-TIME THREE-POINT FIELD GOALS MADE
1. 308 – Jeff Lukomski, Regina 2006-11
2. 252 – Sam Freeman, UFV 2008-13
3. 239 – Casey Archibald; UBC 2002-07
3. 239 – Danny Balderson; Lethbridge 1993-95,97-00
5. 211 – Richard Bohne; Calgary 1992-96
6. 204 – Ryan MacKinnon, UVic, 2007-12
7. 195 – Joel Hunter; Regina 2001-06
8. 187 – Tom Johnson; Victoria 1986-87,88-92
9. 184 – Chris Dyck; Manitoba 2003-05, UBC 06-09
10. 179 – Kevin Shaw, SFU 2005-10
Sam Freeman has been able to showcase his all-around game this season, and he ended up second in Canada West scoring at 21.1 points per game. (John Morrow photo)