Conversation with Jeff Fryer ’90 & Leslie Lopez-Wood ’17

Jeff Fryer ’90 was a crucial component in the LMU Elite Eight men’s basketball team of 1989–90. A member of the LMU Hall of Fame, he also was inducted into the WCC Hall of Honor. Fryer holds the national record for 3-pointers made in an NCAA tournament game — 11. Leslie Lopez-Wood ’17 set the LMU women’s record for 3-pointers made in a career mid-way through her junior season last year. We interviewed them together about the role of the 3-point shooter.

Do you feel pressure because you’re expected to make more 3-pointers than other players?
JEFF: I didn’t really feel pressure because Coach Paul Westhead gave every player the green light to shoot. He pulled you out of the game if you passed up a shot. That gave us a lot of confidence to shoot whenever we were open.
LESLIE: I do feel some pressure because I hold the women’s 3-point title. In a game, I sometimes feel pressure. If a 3-pointer needs to be made, then I know I need to knock it down. But I know my teammates are going to have great games, too.

Can a decent athlete learn to be a highly effective shooter, or is it an unteachable talent?
JEFF: I think it’s a little bit of both. I wasn’t super-athletic compared with most of the guys I was playing against, but I believe God gifted me from an early age with good hand-eye coordination and an ability to shoot a basketball. But also I worked really hard at it. I think everyone is given a gift, whatever it is, but as long as you work really diligently and hard at it, you’ll be successful.
LESLIE: I agree completely with Jeff. God definitely has his hand placed on people, blessing them with certain gifts. I also believe that you need to get in the gym. It’s all about hard work, patience and timing. What you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it.

Do you feel any fear of being asked to take the final shot that could win a game?
LESLIE: I don’t have any fear. It’s more about trying to focus and being ready to take my shot. Last year, with five seconds to play against Pacific, Coach Charity Elliott drew up a play, and I hit the shot. We do it all the time in practice. As long as I feel prepared, I don’t feel any fear.
JEFF: Everybody has a little nervousness. But in the flow of a game, you’re programmed to shoot that shot. It’s an opportunity you look for as a player. You want to be in that position. You’re going to miss some of them. Michael Jordan, for example, missed a lot of game-winning shots, and he also made a bunch.

Leslie, you usually guard the other team’s best player, and, Jeff, you played on a team whose defense was key to its offensive system. How does defense help offense?
LESLIE: Being able to stop the best player on the other team, limiting her scoring or grabbing a steal gives me and my team momentum.
JEFF: We forced a lot of turnovers and attempted to control the tempo, and we made the other team run in our style, which they weren’t used to. We practiced that tempo every day. We would drive ahead of them in the last portion of the game, because they weren’t accustomed to our pace.

Fans often say a player on a streak is “unconscious” or “in the zone.” What does it feel like to be in the zone?
LESLIE: After I knock down three shots, I feel like that’s the zone. You can just feel it as a player: “This is going in.” You feel it as soon as you release the ball. I know God is always there for me, but when I get to that point I think, “I know you’re there. Your hand is the one throwing it in!” It feels like there’s something else controlling the ball.
JEFF: I’ve always wondered how to get “in the zone.” It’s not that easy. When you have that rhythm, it’s like shooting the ball into the ocean. It’s really easy. It’s an incredible feeling when you’re connecting on shot
after shot.

What’s the key to dealing with a cold streak?
LESLIE: I ask myself how can I be prod-uctive for the team. I’ve grown as a player and now it’s also about getting steals, getting that rebound and assist. When I get into a slump, I try to get someone else open. I have the same confidence in the next player as I do in myself.
JEFF: I was watching the NBA play-offs last year when Kyrie Irving, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, had a cold streak in a game. But he went back into the gym that night and started shooting and kept working on it.

Jeff, your skills when you played the game would make you a highly sought-after player in the college game today. Do you ever think about how you’d do in today’s game?
JEFF: I don’t think about it. But I do remember that when I was a senior in high school, the 3-point line entered the college game, but most of my shots already were pretty far from the basket. Coach Westhead said to me, “Your stock just went up,” and he recruited me a little harder. When I coach my youth teams and they’re bricking their shots, I want to get in there and take a few.

Leslie, you’ve not only had a good college basketball career, you’ve put your name into the LMU record book. How does that feel to you?
LESLIE: I feel blessed just putting on that LMU uniform and being part of the LMU family. Representing them is great. As for the record book, it shows how great my team is because without them having confidence in me, and continuing to feed me, I wouldn’t be in the record book at all.