COLUMBIA — It really shouldn't be a surprise that they ended up at Missouri together.
Both were named high school player of the year for the state of Kansas, one by the media and the other by coaches. Both were class valedictorians and were members of Kansas' All-State Big Six Team.
Both averaged more than 20 points a game in their senior years playing in the post, and each picked volleyball as their second sport. They also spent a few summers on the same AAU squad.
Now Kendra Frazier and Bailey Gee are both freshmen members of the Missouri women's basketball team. This is not a coincidence.
“I was talking to Kendra about it," Gee said about the possibility of committing to Missouri. "I knew she was getting recruited by them, too, and it just kind of all worked out.”
Missouri coach Cindy Stein and her staff had been following both players for years, first contacting them when they were freshmen in high school, Frazier at Labette County and Gee at Andover Central.
“(They're) just two kids that I’ve really watched play a lot," Stein said. "I like their intensity. I like their work ethic. They’re both very smart people on and off the floor. I just really got along with them. Their personalities are really good.”
Frazier, a 6-foot-5 center, committed to the Tigers first. Gee followed her and redshirt freshman Bekah Mills, whose hometown is just 10 minutes from Gee's, to the program.
"It was just nice, you know, she’s my roommate, so I instantly knew somebody here," Frazier said. "It’s kind of like we’ve gone through everything together instead of by ourselves.”
Living together assures them of at least a little familiarity during a time of transition, from high school to college classrooms as well as courts.
“It’s a change. This is a big change, but I’m getting used to it right now," said the 5-foot-11-inch Gee, who will play guard for the Tigers. "It was kind of hard at the beginning, but I’m used to it now."
Frazier said she and Gee have become best friends. Accordingly, late-night talks about everything from a bad practice to an upcoming test are regular occurrences.
“It helps a lot, just especially because you can call home, but it’s not the same as having somebody that knows what you’re talking about," she said. "You know, you call home to your friends at home, your family at home, they don’t really have the picture in their head of what happened, so if you’re with somebody that experienced the same thing, it helps out.”
SEASON STARTS: The Tigers will play their first regular season game at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Mizzou Arena against South Dakota State. Missouri lost 78-63 to the Jackrabbits in its first road game a season ago.
South Dakota, which is competing as an NCAA Division I team for the first time this season, has four returning starters from a team that finished 23-7 last season. Missouri did not lose any regular starters from last year's team.
"We’re so much better of a team than we were last year when we played them, but, at the same time, I’m sure they’ve improved in many ways also," Stein said. "They’re a tremendous shooting team. Our defense will have to be playing extremely well, and obviously we’re going to have to put up some good numbers to keep up with them.”
Stein blamed her team's inexperience for last season's loss but said it can be motivation.
“We’re excited," she said. "There’s no reason not to be. We’ve got a point to prove almost in every game. We’re much better than projected; finally we’re getting an opportunity to prove it.”
RECRUIT SIGNED: Stein said Thursday that Trenee Thorton, a guard from Central High School in Kansas City, has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Tigers.
Thorton, a 5-foot-6 guard from Central High School in Kansas City, was a First Team All-State member in Class 4 last year.