Mount Pleasant, Mich. — Walking into a movie theater in the summer of 2014, members of the Michigan Sting Elite AAU basketball team were set to buy tickets to a horror film.
But not Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost.
As first-year teammates that summer before their senior years of high school, two of the state’s top basketball recruits stood in the back of the line.
“Do you like scary movies?” Frost asked.
“No,” Hudson responded, quietly.
“Me either,” Frost said.
So, Hudson and Frost instead bought tickets to see “Tammy,” a comedy featuring Melissa McCarthy. Nobody else from the team joined them.
They had popcorn, and they had lots of laughs. And just like that, a bond was born.
“It was really fun, and that’s how we became friends,” Frost said recently. “It was the first time we hung outside of basketball.”
Since then, the two have grown closer on the court, in the classroom and as best friends — and roommates during a memorable four years in Mount Pleasant. Their time as teammates, and as two of the best basketball players in the history of the program, is nearing its end. Not that there’s necessarily an end in sight, as the Chipppewas (25-7) get set to open the NCAA Tournament on Saturday against Michigan State (20-11) in South Bend, Ind.
It’s Central Michigan’s second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid, after the surprising run to the Sweet 16 a year ago — both spurred so much by Hudson, the leading scorer in the history of Central Michigan, men’s or women’s, and Frost, the Mid-American Conference player of the year.
During that AAU summer season in 2014, Hudson, from a basketball-rich family in Wayland in west Michigan, already was committed to Central Michigan. Frost, of Reese east of Saginaw, was still considering her options, which were down to Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Bucknell.
Hudson had made her choice when her junior year began in 2013, while Frost wasn’t set to make a decision until she was a senior in August 2014. Frost was an “animal on the boards” in AAU, and Hudson wanted her to join the Chippewas.
In early August, just a few weeks removed from the AAU campaign, Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara called Hudson.
“Reyna Frost committed,” Guevara said.
“Are you serious?” Hudson said, excitedly. “This is going to be sweet. We are going to be able to do some stuff here.”
And, whoa, did they ever.
From that moment, Hudson understood what could be in terms of all the points, assists, rebounds, championships and glory in Mount Pleasant.
It was official — Hudson, a point guard, and Frost, a forward, were to be Chippewas.
“My brother was a sophomore when I committed and played on the practice team, so I knew Coach (Guevara),” Frost said. “I just talked to my parents, and they thought this was the best place for me.”
Even though Frost was exceptional, it was Hudson who received recognition as a freshman. She started the 2015-16 season opener against Indiana State and scored a team-high 21 on 8-of-15 shooting from the field. After only two career games, Hudson was named the College Madness (High-Major) national player of the week.
She was later crowned Mid-American Conference freshman of the year.
Frost, on the other hand, was kept on the bench until the eighth game of the season — when she replaced Jewel Cotton and helped pace the Chippewas to a MAC West Division championship as a freshman.
“We were roommates and talked after the games, trying to pick each other up,” said Frost, who continues living with Hudson today. “Obviously, we weren’t as mentally strong as the upperclassmen. We got each other through those moments.”
Pulling down 308 rebounds, ninth best on the single-season list, in her first year, Frost was runner up to Hudson in the MAC freshman-of-the-year voting. Hudson averaged a team-high 13.9 points per game, also earning second-team All-MAC.
Hudson and Frost quickly put their stamp on the program, but the pair also developed off the court.
Spending all her life in Wayland, Hudson struggled to manage her nerves coming to Mount Pleasant for college. She took comfort in Frost.
“It’s been really special. Coming into college, I’m a homebody, I was really scared to be away from home,” Hudson said. “To be able to develop a friendship that will last a lifetime was amazing.”
When Hudson was asked what she enjoys doing most with her best friend, she began to talk about watching basketball films and going to the movies, but Frost interjected herself into the conversation.
“You’re my euchre partner,” Frost said smiling, as both admitted they are a tough team to beat.
Even though it seems like Hudson and Frost clicked the moment they stepped in that movie theater as soon-to-be seniors in high school, that’s not the case. Hudson, whose naturally quiet, didn’t warm up to Frost until a few months into freshman year of college.
“Presley, she’s a quiet person at first,” Frost said, smiling. “Once I got to know her, I got to meet her family and all her siblings. It was definitely a friendship I wanted to develop.”
Hudson quickly jumped into a lead-by-example role. Even as a freshman, she was the first player in the gym, which set the tone for Frost and others.
“When I started doing that, I didn’t think people would start following me,” Hudson said. “But when they did, I was like, ‘Wow, I have to keep working.’ It made me more motivated.”
After a MAC West championship in the 2015-16 season as freshmen, Hudson and Frost continued to carry the Chippewas, earning three MAC regular-season titles, one MAC tournament championship and a 100-32 overall record over four seasons.
"There's no substitute for experience," Guevara said before her team went to the MAC tournament in Cleveland, where it lost in the semifinals, but still had done enough to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. "You can tell your players about what it's going to be like, but until they feel it, they don't understand."
CMU's Presley Hudson met the media earlier this week to discuss the Chippewas' latest appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Detroit News
Hudson has set two all-time program records for career points and assists (the latter, passing Suzy Merchant, the coach of Michigan State, Central's first-round foe), while Frost did the same in the rebounding category.
Last season, Central Michigan won the MAC regular season and tournament, then made a run to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 by defeating No. 6 LSU and No. 3 Ohio State, before falling to No. 2 Oregon, 83-69.
Hudson and Frost hope they can repeat success this time around, or go even further. Central Michigan is in the South Bend region, hosted by top seed Notre Dame (30-3). The winner of Central Michigan-Michigan State plays again Monday.
“When you set goals, you want to accomplish them,” Hudson said. “When you accomplish those goals, it’s time for new ones.”
For Hudson and Frost, their remarkable four-year careers are nearing their end.
Just one loss will finish everything, so there’s no room for error.
“I don’t want that moment to come, but it’ll come eventually,” said Frost, who'll have more than rings and individual accolades, like all those MAC player-of-the-week awards she racked up this year to be thankful for when she leaves Mount Pleasant. “I developed a relationship that, no matter where we end up, I’ll still be able to call or text her whenever I’m frustrated about something.”
NO. 8 CENTRAL MICHIGAN VS. NO. 9 MICHIGAN STATE
Tip-off: 1 p.m. Saturday, South Bend, Ind.
Records: Central Michigan 25-7; Michigan State 20-11
NO. 8 MICHIGAN VS. NO. 9 KANSAS STATE
Tip-off: 2 p.m. Friday, Louisville, Ky.
Records: Michigan 21-11; Kansas State 21-11
Evan Petzold is a freelance writer.