There's no shortage of Division I playing experience, talent, or academic and athletic success when it comes to the Huskie clipboard crew and that includes Director of Basketball Operations Leah Frierson.
A member of an NJCAA national runner-up before earning a scholarship to Austin Peay State University, Frierson comes to DeKalb after a two-year stint as an assistant coach for St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Lauringburg, NC.
Born in Centerville, IL, Frierson grew up in Belleville and played prep ball for coach Paul James at Belleville East High School before joining coach Mike Juenger's program at Belleville Area College. After right knee surgery wiped off her initial year when the Dutchwomen posted a 30-5 mark, Frierson came back strong in helping the program finish second in the NJCAA Championships as part of a 33-3 campaign in 1999-2000.
Although the school was renamed Southwestern Illinois College with the new nickname of Blue Storm, Frierson helped the program post a 20-10 mark and reach the NJCAA Region XXIV semifinals for a third straight season. The school's all-time career rebounding leader, she earned both All-Region XXIV and Great Rivers Athletic All-Conference honors during both of her final two campaigns.
Frierson, 24, earned a scholarship to Division I Austin Peay State University, where a torn ACL in her left knee cut short a 2001-02 first season. The 5-foot-11 forward came back as a senior to help APSU capture a second straight Ohio Valley Conference title as a defensive reserve. The latter Lady Governors' unit went undefeated in the OVC and came within two points of upsetting the University of North Carolina in a 2003 NCAA first-round game in Boulder, CO.
Despite her medical problems, Frierson always excelled in the classroom. While earning her Associate Arts Degree from Southwestern Illinois, she made the Athletic Director's Honor Roll from the fall of 1999 through the spring of 2001 and was included in "Who's Who Among Junior College Students."
At Austin Peay, she earned the prestigious Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar-Athlete Award in 2003 after having been on the Ohio Valley Commissioner's Honor Roll (3.25 gpa or higher) for 2002-03. She was a four-time honoree on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll (3.0 gpa or higher) and made the Dean's List (3.50 gpa or higher) for the spring of 2002 and 2003.
After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in communications with a minor in sociology from Austin Peay in 2003, Frierson joined coach David Johnson's staff at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, NC, as a recruiting coordinator and assistant. The Knights registered their first-ever postseason win in 2004 and enjoyed school records for overall (12) and conference (8) wins until 2004-05. That's when SAPC had its most successful season at the Division II level with a 15-13 campaign.
In addition to working with the St. Andrews post players, she oversaw academic progress, recruiting, strength and conditioning plus compliance. Frierson directed the program's film exchange and community outreach programs along with serving as the school's Student Athlete Advisory Board Advisor.
A graduate of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's "So You Want To Be A Coach" program held at the 2004 convention, Frierson is a member of that organization along with the Black Coaches Association, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and NCAA Leadership Action Academy. She is currently completing a Master of Science degree in sports administration from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke.
"I met Leah at the NCAA Women's Final Four and was very impressed with her. She brings a lot of energy, personality and a great work ethic that has made her highly recommended by everyone I spoke to," NIU head coach Carol Owens said. "Her ultimate goal is to be a head coach and I'm convinced we can capitalize on her organizational skills in serving as co-director for our camps, supervising our film exchange as well as the managers and student coaches. In addition to helping with on-campus recruiting, she'll handle our day-to-day office operations."