Junior Amani Free Takes Scoring, Leadership Role for Quinnipiac


Quinton Hamilton

With about four minutes on the clock in the second quarter of a close contest with the Marist Red Foxes, Quinnipiac was on the offensive attack. The ball swung to Amani Free and instincts took over on the catch.

She pump-faked, took one hard dribble left and put the ball between her legs. Her defender crumbled to the ground. She took one dribble with her right hand, finished with a floater and hustled back on defense. A not-so-routine play that she made look easy.

Some might see this as one of those highlights that mean more than just any other offensive possession; it’s not every day you make a defender fall with a crossover. But Free has put in the work. It’s almost as if she expected this.

“I’ve trained over the summer, I know everyone on my team’s trained over the summer for this, and just knowing that you’ve prepared for this, you should go into the game knowing, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” Free told Q30 Sports.

This was a moment two years in the making.

Free’s first year, 2018-19, was an adjustment which is understandable. She was playing behind established wings like Aryn McClure, Jen Fay, Paula Strautmane. Free appeared in 23 games, averaging 2.2 points on 43.2 percent shooting in 5.3 minutes per game.

Her sophomore year was more of the same, learning from veterans like Paige Warfel and Taylor Herd. Free did see a hike in her minutes, giving her the chance to both learn from Warfel and Herd and get out on the court and have so success and learn from some mistakes of her own.

This added experience is key in the development of any player and Free benefited from it immensely.

“That was another learning experience for me,” Free said. “So, I took that into the summer and the start of my junior year I knew I had to pick up more of a leadership role since I will be one of the oldest people besides our seniors.”

Now it’s her turn.

Through 12 games, Free is averaging 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, both career highs. In many cases, her averages are better this year, her third season, than her first two combined.

Following the end of Free’s sophomore year, Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri held individual meetings with each member of the team. Free talked with her coach about what would be expected of her going into the next year.

The Fays, Warfels and Herds of previous years would all be gone, and in addition to improving offensively and defensively, Fabbri stressed leadership as a key area for Free to improve on going into her junior season.

“They wanted me to be more aggressive,” Free said. “I had to stop overthinking. They said to continue shooting because I tend to be a very good shooter. So I really focused on working on my range shooting past the three point line so I can really extend it and help the team in that way.”

Free took that information and got to work. Even in the midst of a pandemic, she didn’t have any problems finding a gym for workouts. Her father, Daryl, is one of her trainers and they trained together on a court conveniently located in their backyard.

She also worked on her ball skills with trainer Billy Edelin who won a national championship with Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse in 2003.

All of her hard work is paying off. Defensively, Free is in position and causing problems for opposing offenses, averaging nearly one block and one steal per game.

Offensively, she is finding her groove. She was named one of the MAAC Student-Athletes of the Week on Dec. 16 after setting then-career highs with 16 points and seven rebounds against Army.

Fabbri moved her into the starting lineup at the beginning of conference play and she’s been a mainstay in the lineup ever since.

Free is coming off another impressive weekend. She scored eight points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds in a Jan. 22 win against Rider University and came back the next day to score a career-high 25 points in a close loss.

Free is certainly showing up near the top of opposing team’s scouting reports now. For some players, that might mean an adjustment period but she says her basketball instincts are taking over in this situation, and it shows.

“In game situations you kind of just have to let your basketball instincts take over,” Free said “If they’re sagging off, you know, you shoot the shot and if they’re pressuring you, you go by them. That’s just any basketball player’s mindset.”

The Bobcats are 7-5 overall with a conference record of 5-3, third in the MAAC. As they go forward in the season and into the conference tournament, Amani Free will help the team in more ways than just one.