When Central Michigan women’s basketball coach Sue Guevara assigned her players the book “Chop Wood Carry Water” for their summer reading, she wanted them to learn to embrace the mundane tasks in order to earn more glory.
At least one player took the lesson literally.
Reese senior Reyna Frost spent the mid-Michigan summer baling hay and cutting grass at a farm west of Mount Pleasant to get ready to replace an All-American and chase another NCAA Tournament run.
“You know how strong you get from working there?” Guevara said. “I would love the entire team to do that the whole damn summer.”
Frost and roommate Presley Hudson set a summer tone for a repeat run in March: Frost by riding tractors and Wayland Union’s Hudson with her pre-dawn skill work at the Parfitt practice court at McGuirk Arena.
The fruits of their labor are now obvious for younger teammates and the women’s college basketball world to see. Frost recently became the Mid-American Conference’s all-time leading rebounder and Hudson soon will become the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“Our theme is, ‘You can’t cheat the grind,’” said Hudson, who needs 19 points Wednesday at Toledo to unseat Crystal Bradford (2,006 points from 2011-15) as CMU’s all-time leading scorer.
“It’s about taking things a step at a time and making sure you’re seeing things in the moment.”
That next moment will be the toughest MAC’s road environment at Savage Arena to face the Rockets (11-5, 3-2), who like the Chippewas, beefed up the non-conference schedule this season.
After winning at Toledo earlier this year, legendary coach Muffet McGraw of top-ranked Notre Dame said Savage Arena would be among the toughest places to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Meanwhile, the Chippewas attracted their own top-five visitor in No. 4 Louisville, hanging tough with All-American Asia Durr and the Cardinals in a 72-68 loss on Dec. 20.
“For some of the underclassmen, stepping on the court and playing against those bigger players was a learning experience,” Frost said. “For me and Presley, there’s things we have to work on, too, and that really got us ready for the MAC.”
Central Michigan (13-4, 4-1) won its first three MAC games before stumbling at home last week against Miami (Ohio), as Frost and Hudson combined to go 1-for-10 shooting on 3-pointers in the 70-67 loss.
Then, Hudson and Frost found themselves on the bench with foul trouble during Saturday’s fourth quarter at Kent State.
However, sophomore guard Micaela King (Detroit King) played the entire game and led the way with 20 points, and sophomore Kyra Bussell (Grand Rapids Catholic Central) had 15 points in 16 minutes off the bench in the 82-75 win. In addition, sophomore guard Maddy Watters (Rockford) and freshman center Jahari Smith have solidified the starting lineup.
It’s a good sign for a team hoping to catch more March magic after topping LSU and Ohio State last season to reach the Sweet 16 as a No. 11 seed before falling to second-seeded Oregon in the Spokane regional semifinal.
“They’ve been much more vocal,” Guevara said of her senior duo in guiding the youngsters. “Think they’ve been really good as far as mentoring the younger players. They were very encouraging before I got into the timeouts (on Saturday).
“Off the floor, they’re done a really nice job of helping our younger players understand the time commitment it takes when they’re not in practice.”
Guevara gave the Chippewas two weeks off after the run, then got back to work on replacing graduates Cassie Breen (Woodhaven) and center Tinara Moore (Southgate Anderson), the first CMU player to earn an All-American honorable mention selection. Both are playing professionally overseas.
Hudson is netting a career high 20.8 points per game and a team-high 5.5 assists. Frost is getting 18.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per outing, with Kelly adding 14.5 points per game.
Refreshed and with her contract extended through 2022-23, the 64-year-old Saginaw native Guevara said she’s enjoying her “dream job” for the 12th season in Mount Pleasant.
Guevara coached 28 years before settling in Mount Pleasant, beginning in 1979 by coaching softball and basketball at her alma mater Saginaw Valley State and serving as an assistant at Auburn before coming to CMU in 2007.
In between, she was head coach at Michigan for seven years, going 123-82 from 1996 through 2003 in Ann Arbor, and also spent time as an assistant at Michigan State, Ball State and Ohio State.
It took longer than she planned, but after going 7-22 in her first season, Guevara said she has a strong appreciation from where the Central Michigan program has come.
“I think it was finally put in perspective for me when I went to the Final Four this year,” Guevara said of earning the respect of coaches throughout the country and being named Kay Yow National Coach of the Year.
“Now you could say, ’It just took you so damn long.’ But I’ve really learned to appreciate where our program has come and where it continues to evolve and go.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.
Central Michigan women at Toledo
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Savage Arena, Toledo Ohio
Records: Central Michigan is 13-4, 4-1 Mid American Conference; Toledo is 11-5, 3-2