ZH: Tell us about your career at Harrington and the sucesses and failures you experienced there.
RF: Harrington was a really great place to grow up and play basketball. I've got a lot of memories starting at a real young age. I always seemed to have a successful team at every level. I had the pleasure of playing with my older brother Brad my first two years in High School and we led our team to the State B's my sophomore year for the first time in 30 years. We returned to the State B's my senior year where we finished 6th. My biggest success and failure was probably in the same game of that tournament. I had probably the best game of my career, but we weren't able to win and I missed a couple of easy opportunities in the final seconds. We lost by two points in that semi-final game. But I have nothing but happy memories playing basketball at Harrington and would do it the same way all over again if I had the chance.
ZH: What universities recruited you out of high school and why did you choose to walk on at Gonzaga? Do you think playing for a Class B school
hindered your recruitment?
RF: Unfortunately, I didn't have alot of D-1 teams recruiting me out of high school. I think that was probably the biggest drawback to playing at such a small school. I never felt I got the respect or recognition that I deserved. Eastern Washington recruited me along with many other D-2
programs, but I really wanted to play at a competitive D-1 school and Gonzaga had just reached the NCAA tourney for the first time. Dan
Fitzgerald did a great job of convincing me that I could compete and had a good chance of earning a scholarship. I've never been afraid of taking
risks, and I felt that this was definitely a risk that would be really great if it worked out. Fortunately, it did.
ZH: You redshirted as a freshman with Mike Nilson. What was it like to not play in a game for a year and how did redshirting benefit you?
RF: Redshirting was an absolute must for me. I had so much to learn about the game itself, not to mention I wasn't a very strong kid at that point. I came into Gonzaga weighing just under 160 lbs. and had a lot of bad habits that needed to be corrected. There were two solid guards in front of me, Kevin Williams and Lorenzo Rollins, so my playing time would have been next to nothing anyway. I think redshirting can be a really positive decision for a lot of freshman and it really helped me along with Mike, Matt [Santangelo], and Mark [Spink].
ZH: When did you receive a scholarship and what did you have to do, in your opinion, to earn it?
RF: I knew in order for me to earn a scholarship, I really had to work hard and be 100% committed to the game. I probably had more to learn than anyone, and there was a lot of convincing of the coaches underneath Fitz that I had to do also. I didn't receive a scholarship until my 3rd year. The first year, none of us (walkons) were able to get the scholarship. Speaking for Mike and myself, we really took this hard. It was a tough decision to come back for
the second year realizing how much effort we had put into that redshirt year along with the amount of money our families and ourselves were sacrificing along the way. I believed in myself and I knew the things that I hadn't done that first year that would make the difference. I made some changes and became even more dedicated and proved myself as a player. And I'm
really glad I didn't give up.
ZH: From a former walkon to Gonzaga's current walkons, what is the best advice you can give them?
RF: The best advice I can give is the emphasis on finding ways to keep your confidence up. It's really hard for any freshman to come into a solid
program like Gonzaga and maintain total confidence throughout the season. Especially for walkons. I got down on myself several times and started to lose the confidence I had that always made me the player I knew I was capable of being. Times can be hard and it's easy to question yourself and your abilities. But it's a habit you need to build to remind yourself that
you do belong, the coaches want you there, and you are every bit as talented as the other players. Hard work and dedication are two absolutes that can't be overlooked either.
ZH: Describe what it was like to go up to Fairbanks and beat tough teams like #8 Clemson in the Top of the World Classic? Was that a breakthrough for the GU program, proving you could play and beat anybody?
RF: I think the trip to Fairbanks was a big breakthrough for us. Not so much that we proved ourselves to the public, but more so we proved to ourselves that we really were as good as we always dreamed of being. We were as athletic, talented, SMART, and poised as any team we ever grew up watching on television. We knew we could compete, but that was the point that made us understand that we had the ability to compete with any team in the country. It was a big confidence booster to the team. And it was the
beginning of putting GONZAGA on the map nationally.
ZH: And then came the Elite Eight run. Was beating Florida the highlight, or were the others just as satisfying? How much trash did Khalid El-Amin talk? More than Quentin Hall?
RF: [laughs] That whole tournament run from the opening tip of the Minnesota game all the
way through Quentin's 3-pointer in the final moment of the UCONN game was unbelievable. I would have to say my most satisfying moment was during the UCONN game when we had 90% of the Arena cheering for the Zags! El-Amin didn't have time to talk any trash. Quentin had his number all night and really outplayed him that game. It was no contest between the two.
ZH: Compare and contrast Dan Fitzgerald, Dan Monson and Mark Few. Are there a lot of common denominators between them, or are they very different from each other?
RF: Each of the three coaches have their own style. Fitz was a lot more old school than the other two, but a great coach and got the players to work hard every night. Mons was a great leader and had his own unique ways of motivating the team as well. Fewy is a really good teacher of the game and gave us a little more freedom than the other two. He's a great X's and O's
coach, especially offensively. We had a lot of different ways to attack teams with his offense, whether it was the flex from back in Fitz's day,
or basic motion where we spread things out more and let some guys use some one-on-one skills. But anyway you look at it, they made the transitions from coach to coach to coach as smooth as possible. As players, we never felt lost or confused by the changes. All three coaches have had great assistants underneath them, too. Coach Grier and Rice do a great job behind the scenes and the coaches make up a great team of their own.
ZH: I think your five treys and 17 points against UCLA in Pauley Pavilion was a game that most Zag fans will remember forever. Tell us about that game that saw Gonzaga hold the Bruins to their lowest point total in Pauley Pavilion history. Jason Kapono was quoted that you guys took their heart away; could you see that in their faces?
RF: It's definitely a game I will always remember. It was one of those nights when everything feels right and it's easy to get in a flow. Our defense was really working well too, especially our zone. We took them completely out
of rhythm and jumped on them the whole game. My team did a great job of setting screens and knowing I had something going. I always wish I could have made more, but I can live with what happened.
ZH: What made Gonzaga special when you were there? Has anything changed in that regard nowadays?
RF: The most important thing that made Gonzaga so special when I was there was the closeness we had as a team. We really were a family. There were no two guys alike, each with their own definite personality. But somehow, we all came together and made some incredible friendships. Winning of course makes things even sweeter, but even through some rough times during the seasons,
we never separated on or off the court. And to this day, we still remain close. I don't think there has been much of a change. I can't speak for the team so much now, but I can see the way they interact and there's a lot of love and trust in the group. That truly is what has made Gonzaga unique for many years before my time there, during, and hopefully many years into the future.
ZH: You were interviewed last year on radio and mentioned coaching at the college level as a career in your future. Is that still a goal and would you consider Gonzaga if the opportunity arose at the right time?
RF: It's still something I would love to do assuming an opportunity presents itself. I love the game and I wish I could play forever. But coaching is the next closest thing. I've learned an immeasurable amount about basketball from my coaches at Gonzaga and would love the opportunity to pass that on to others. I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for any opportunities so I guess we'll see when the time comes.
ZH: Tell us about your Hoops Camps in small towns in Eastern Washington. I understand some Zags come on down to help out.
RF: I've had the pleasure of running some camps in Harrington, Wilbur and Colfax the past two summers. It's amazing how much fun I have doing it. The Zags are always willing to come down and help out and make it a great week for the kids. Zach Gourde, Mike Nilson and Casey Calvary are some that have shown the kids some skills to take home with them at the end of
the day. Mike Nilson and myself plan to run some camps in Spokane this summer as well.
ZH: Okay, time for basketball in Europe. What's the difference between hoops there and hoops here in the states?
RF: Hoops in Europe definitely has it's differences. A few rule changes, coaching theories, and officiating are the main ones. But fortunately, the league I played in was full of Americans. European ballers aren't used to the physical play we're used to. But usually I was guarded by an American and guarded him as well. My favorite part was that I got to shoot the ball a lot more than in college. I got it up whenever I had the chance. It was fun.
ZH: What has your pro career in Europe been like thus far? Do you and Mike Nilson remain best pals and teammates?
RF: My experience in Europe has been incredible. It was an opportunity I will always be thankful for. The basketball there will never compare to the times I had at Gonzaga, but the experience as a whole was amazing. Having
Mike there this last season was a huge bonus. We had our team in 1st place with an undefeated record when I left. The last email I got from Mike said they are still in that position. We lived together for 3 years in college, but these last 6 months in Europe were probably the best times we'd spent together.
ZH: Tell us about your knee and your thoughts on trying pro ball in Australia for a change. Pro ball sounds like a terrific way to see the
world. Will you contact Axel Dench in Australia to help you out, or do you have an agent?
RF: I'll be going in for ACL reconstruction sometime in February. Unfortunately, it might not be something I come back from where I'll be
playing any more pro ball. I'm going to do my best to keep the option open, but being healthy enough to run around with my kids in a few years is more important at this point. We'll just have to wait and see, but no plans at the moment. Australia would definitely be my first choice, though.
ZH: Your brother Colin is currently a redshirt freshman walkon at Gonzaga. What does he do better than you did at that age, and can he ultimately be better than you?
RF: He does a lot of things better than me at his age. He's much more under control than I was. He's really fast and has great body control. However, though he won't agree, I could definitely jump higher than him. I know he has the potential to be a much better player than I was. He needs to become more aggressive and assertive, but he's going to be good. His confidence is getting better and I know he's learned a lot already this first year. I'm
excited to watch him play in the years to come. When I'm healthy, it'll be a good game of one-on-one.
ZH: You're now married. Tell us about your family and what's ahead for you and your wife outside of basketball.
RF: Sundei and I have had the best time being married. Having the chance to go to Germany and spend all of our time together has been more than we could ask for. We'll be moving to Spokane this February and I will finish my student teaching in May. She's a teacher and will be looking for a job next fall. No kids on the way yet, but it's definitely in our future plans.
Right now, we're mainly just having alot of fun and trying to make good decisions for our future.