Matt Frierson always knew how to shoot.
The Laurel resident averaged 23.6 points per game as a senior in 2014-15 for Chapelgate Christian Academy in Marriottsville and knocked down a Howard County record 137 threes that season. He made 283 in his three varsity seasons and scored more than 1,000 points.
That’s what makes Frierson, now a sophomore shooting guard, a perfect fit for the men’s basketball team at The Citadel, whose style of play is unmatched by any Division-I team in the country.
In their first 18 games this season, the Bulldogs averaged 97.2 points per contest, which led the nation.
The up-tempo style of play instituted by head coach Duggar Baucom, in his second season with the military school in South Carolina, leaves many opponents gasping for air.
The Citadel beat Johnson University of Florida, 146-84, in November and posted a 144-94 victory over Toccoa Falls of Georgia in December.
“It is a lot of fun to play,” said Frierson, who grew up on 4th Street in downtown Laurel. “You get to shoot a lot of threes. You have to be in shape; coach puts us in a lot of drills during the offseason. Practices are usually short and intense. We go up and down for an hour and a half as fast as we can.”
Frierson was a reserve sharpshooter as a freshman at The Citadel. He played in 31 of 32 games and averaged 4.7 points in 9.9 minutes per contest.
This season, Frierson played in the first 18 games, with two starts, and averaged 6.2 points and 15.9 minutes per game. He was 34 of 101 from 3-point range, which ranked third on the team in both made threes and 3-point attempts.
Frierson has scored in double digits six times this season and had 21 points — all on 3-pointers — in the win over Johnson University of Florida. He had 11 points and shot 4 of 7 from the floor in 27 minutes off the bench in a 79-74 win against VMI on Jan. 7 to help the Bulldogs improve to 9-9 overall and 2-3 in the Southern Conference.
“I would say it is hard; it takes getting used to,” Frierson said of coming off the bench. “In high school if I missed the first three shots I would get a lot more [attempts]. I have to be ready to go.”
Frierson played basketball for his father, Frick, at Chapelgate and was the Most Valuable Player of the Maryland Christian School Tournament as a junior, when he averaged 15.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per contest. The Yellowjackets won the Maryland Christian School Tournament title in 2014 after finishing second the previous year. Frierson was named to the Howard County Times’ all-county first-team as a guard his senior season.
He comes from an athletic family, as his brother Nate played basketball at Covenant College, and another brother, Gordie, played basketball at Columbia International. Their sister, Lydia, was a junior midfielder and captain for the women’s soccer team at Division-I Charleston Southern in South Carolina this past fall.
Matt Frierson attracted attention from several college programs, including Navy, American and Colgate. But he was recruited to The Citadel by former Maryland player Chuck Driesell, the son of Maryland Hall of Fame basketball coach Lefty Driesell.
Chuck Driesell was let go by The Citadel prior to the 2014-15 season, but the new coaching staff under the direction of Baucom continued to pursue Frierson.
Frierson played in front of several family and friends when The Citadel faced UMBC on Dec. 19 in Catonsville.
The Retrievers did not have much time to prepare for the Bulldogs after losing at home Dec. 17 to crosstown rival Towson, 73-72. Playing The Citadel, which has scored 100 points or more eight times this year, on short rest is a tall task for any team.
“We did not get much rest. They showed us some film [of The Citadel]. It is going to be something you have never seen,” was the message from the UMBC coaches, said Bowie resident Jourdan Grant, a junior guard for the Retrievers. “They are averaging 100 points. It is not every day you hear that.”
In a game that was televised by ESPN3, Frierson had a rough shooting night, as he missed all seven shots — all from 3-point range — in 14 minutes off the bench, as The Citadel lost, 120-111, in double overtime. UMBC set a school record for points scored in a game, besting a mark set against Division-III Gallaudet in the 1970s.
Despite the tough shooting night, Frierson wasn’t deterred. He bounced back to make 8 of 17 3-pointers during a three-game stretch Jan. 2-7, and he knows that other teams in the conference are aware of his long-range touch.
“I just have to get my shot off quickly because I know they are closing in on me,” he said.