ALBANY — This weekend could be the last game of Kyara Frames’ season.
It also could be the final game of her UAlbany women’s basketball career.
Right now, there’s no way for Frames to know how much of her basketball future at UAlbany depends on this Sunday’s postseason result against New Hampshire.
“In all honesty,” Frames said Wednesday during a teleconference, “I would love to play one more year. This wasn’t the year I expected for a senior year.”
All college basketball players this winter were granted an extra year of playing eligibility because of the expected — and realized — challenges of playing a season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. What’s unclear, though, is if UAlbany will have a spot for Frames on next season’s roster. While the NCAA has said it’ll allow schools to exceed the scholarship maximum for the 2021-22 season to accommodate would-be fifth-year seniors, there are other factors — such as schools needing to provide those extra scholarships and how such a player sticking around fits into overall program planning — that affect whether a player is able to use the extra year of eligibility at his or her current school.
UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen said her program plans to honor its seniors — Frames and Khepera Stokes, who missed all of the 2020-21 season because of injury — before Sunday’s America East Conference first-round playoff game against New Hampshire at SEFCU Arena.
Frames, UAlbany’s 5-foot-2 starting point guard, said back in October that “if they want to go ahead and give me another year, I’m definitely going to utilize that,” both because of her love of basketball and because she could use the additional school year to pursue a graduate degree.
“I’m the first person in my family to go to college,” Frames said in October. “So I definitely want to set the blueprint for everybody else in my family.”
Since taking over the UAlbany program in 2018, Mullen has made no secret of her appreciation for Frames, a player the coach described Wednesday as “a great kid who is a terrific leader” for the Great Danes.
But . . .
“Right now,” Mullen said, “we’re in kind of a difficult predicament because of scholarships.”
Mullen stressed that “it’s not set in stone that [Frames] is not coming back.” But it’s also no sure thing that Frames will wear a UAlbany uniform again after this weekend unless the Great Danes advance past New Hampshire. That’s not something that’s “set in yet” for Frames, who added that’s largely because she’s blocking out that unhappy thought from occupying too much of her time.
Frames is averaging 7.9 points per game this season. She has had a solid UAlbany career, and would likely be on the verge of becoming a 1,000-point career scorer if her senior season had included a regular total of games rather than the 16 UAlbany has played.
If she’s unable to play next season at UAlbany, Frames said it’s unlikely she’d look to extend her college basketball career.
“I’m not sure if I would even want to play anywhere else, if this isn’t where I’m staying at,” said Frames, a Maryland native.
Back as a freshman, Frames said she likely would have entered the military out of high school if she hadn’t ended up on a basketball scholarship at UAlbany. She said Wednesday that she’d still like to pursue serving in the United States Air Force when her basketball career is complete, but is thankful that she was able to have a college basketball career.
“I’m definitely happy that I got this experience,” Frames said. “It’s very rare that you’re fortunate enough to have your college paid for, and I’m very appreciative of that.”
Frames appreciates, too, how Mullen gave her a chance to serve as UAlbany’s floor general for three seasons. Frames remembered Wednesday how she left her introductory meeting at a Starbucks with Mullen confident the coach would give her a chance after a freshman season that saw Frames average 12.3 minutes per game off the bench for then-head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee.
“With coach Mullen, I stayed here because she believed in me and, from the jump, she made me feel like I was an important piece to this program,” said Frames, who has been on the court for 87.8% of the program’s minutes played since Mullen took over as head coach.
Mullen called Frames the “heart and soul” of the Great Danes. UAlbany sophomore Grace Heeps, a transfer from UMass, said she was “so grateful” to play with Frames this season.
“She really made me feel comfortable and made me feel like I belonged on this team,” Heeps said.
Heeps added that she didn’t “even want to imagine next year without” Frames on the team.
The same goes for Frames.
“I just love it here,” Frames said. “This is my family.”