DURHAM, NH — The bright pink headband was one telling sign that Morgan Frame was on the practice court Tuesday. The added spring in her step that energized her 6-foot-1 body was more subtle evidence.

“Basketball is fun again,” said Frame, who can remember too readily when the game wasn’t. “I’m so excited.”

So excited because this season’s early success feels a lot like those wonderous three years at Waterville High, when she led a team of childhood friends to Maine’s Class B championship three times. It ended with high school graduation in 2009 after Frame was touted as the best schoolgirl player in the state.

Best player, but not quite ready to play Division I basketball she was told by some. “Maine recruited me a lot but (former head coach Cindy Blodgett) was looking at me as a guard. I wasn’t ready to start as a Division I guard.”

Instead, Frame enrolled at St. Anselm’s, a Division II college in Manchester, N.H. where she was beat down, to use her words. She and her coach had compatability issues. Discouraged, Frame — who had a 2-inch growth spurt — asked to be released from her commitment to the basketball team.

She got the release and New Hampshire got the inside player and the personality it needed.

Frame is the breath of fresh air that swept into the University of New Hampshire women’s basketball program. A lean, athletic dynamo with the limitless supply of headbands — the fluorescent leopard print caught her coach’s eye — and nail polish. A player’s player who has to be reminded it’s not really selfish when you take more shots and most of them fall through the basket and your team starts to win close games rather than lose.

Frame had 35 points and 12 rebounds in an overtime win over Wagner just before Christmas. It was only her second game after sitting out New Hampshire’s first eight games this season to fulfill transfer rules. She scored 15 in her debut game against Rhode Island. She scored the first time she got the ball in her hands on a reverse layup. There was no hesitation.

On the bench, second-year head coach Maureen Magarity remembers looking at her assistants, her eyebrows raised in a did-you-see-that, here-we-go moment. “I’d like to say it’s our coaching that produced this player,” said Magarity after Tuesday’s practice. “But it’s more the work she did in the offseason. She can be unstoppable.”

You couldn’t help but notice Frame’s muscle definition which did not, she says, come at the expense her cat-like quickness.

Magarity smiles, thinking of the headbands and nail polish. “Oh, she’s a girly-girl off the court. In a game it’s so nice to have her inside presence. She’s a beast.”

Monday night, New Hampshire beat Stony Brook after squandering a comfortable lead. Frame dominated the early scoring but got into foul trouble and sat for a long stretch on the bench. Still, she finished with 11 points. She’s scored in double figures in eight of her nine games including big victories over Hartford and Vermont.

More importantly, beating Stony Brook was New Hampshire’s 10th win of the season. “We haven’t done that since I’ve been here,” said Denise Beliveau, a fifth-year senior and the team’s main scoring threat until Frame arrived. She took over after Frame went to the bench. Another forward, Beliveau is New Hampshire’s best 3-point shooter.

“I’m so proud of (Frame),” said Beliveau. “She gave us all a lot of confidence when she was able to start playing.”

It was Beliveau who had to get in Frame’s ear when her teammate started passing up shots more and passing off to teammates recently. “Hey, you scored (35) points against Wagner. You’re good. Remember that.” And don’t worry about everyone else getting their shots.

Blodgett is now an assistant coach at Rhode Island but Frame claims no extra satisfaction from her debut game, a New Hampshire victory over the Rams. Neither is she looking ahead to New Hampshire’s first game of the season with Maine at Orono in old Memorial Gym. New Hampshire plays unbeaten America East foe Boston University on Thursday. That’s the game on her radar.

“It would have been intriguing, being a Maine girl playing for Maine. I wanted to do that. Now, if I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.”

Will she play Maine on Jan. 25 with a chip on her shoulder. Frame flashes a smile. “I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. It’s all worked out.”

Magarity isn’t so sure about that chip. Everyone will have something to prove that day. Frame, maybe most of all.

Steve Solloway — 791-6412

[email protected]


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