Walk-on Newell focusing on academics before basketball

FARGO -- Fred Newell is a business administration major who will earn a minor in ring design -- if his North Dakota State men's basketball teammates approve, anyway.

Fred Newell
FNS photo by Dave Wallis Fred Newell, center, is surrounded by North Dakota State men’s basketball teammates Taylor Braun, TrayVonn Wright, Jordan Aaberg and Marshall Bjorklund.
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FARGO - Fred Newell is a business administration major who will earn a minor in ring design - if his North Dakota State men’s basketball teammates approve, anyway.
The senior guard has been put in charge of coming up with the blueprint for the team’s Summit League title rings. That’s something that will wait for another day because, first, Newell will be in Spokane, Wash., this week for the NCAA tournament. It’s doubtful he’ll play much, but he didn’t walk on four years ago with many expectations, either.
“I looked at NDSU as something more on the academic side of things,” Newell said. “And I thought if there was some chance I could maybe try to walk on or try out for the team, NDSU is where I wanted to do that.”
That’s exactly what he did at 6:30 a.m. on a fall day in his freshman year. That was the time his one-day tryout started with the Bison coaching staff.
Neither his stature nor his offensive skills blew away head coach Saul Phillips. But Phillips liked something else: His quickness in playing defense.
“It’s hard at our level to simulate the foot speed and hand speed of high-major opponents,” Phillips said. “While he doesn’t simulate the length, he does the first two very well. There have been practices where I don’t think he’s taken a shot.”
The beneficiary of Newell’s presence has been starting point guard Lawrence Alexander, who for the last three years has faced Newell’s quickness in practice.
“If you like the way L.A. plays point guard, you can thank Fred Newell,” Phillips said. “From the day L.A. set foot on this campus, Fred Newell has been shadowing him in terms of defensively.”
Offensively, the other five seniors on the team - Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund, TrayVonn Wright, Mike Felt and Jordan Aaberg - have combined for 5,143 points in their careers. The 5-foot-8 Newell has 41.
That’s not his value.
For every Braun or Felt 3-pointer, for every Bjorklund or Aaberg inside move or for every Wright dunk in a game, somebody had to make them work in practice. That’s Freddie’s deal.
“I would never change any of this,” Newell said. “If I could go back, I would do it again. Every time.”
No college wanted Newell for basketball. He was honorable mention
all-conference at Lakeville North High School in the Twin Cities, which is not exactly a resume college coaches look for. He said a few smaller Minnesota schools looked at him for football.
He said he may have been able to go to a smaller school after his first year at NDSU. Phillips said the Bison have lost a couple walk-ons in recent years after a year or two for that reason.
Fred stuck it out. All four years.
“It’s been a lot of hours,” Newell said. “A lot of sweat, a lot of hard work but it’s definitely been worth it.”
He’ll have a title ring to prove it. One with his design on it. Phillips bestowed that responsibility on him as a show of thanks for the last four years.
“It just seemed fitting,” he said. “You’re limited in what rewards you can give a walk-on. You try to recognize them any way you can, and he’ll do a great job with it.”

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