Mount Union sparkles with YouTube star D’Vontay Friga, overlooked recruit Nathan Bower-Malone — Terry Pluto (2024)

ALLIANCE, Ohio — The Mount Union men’s basketball team has a 24-3 record and a 16-game winning streak. That includes a school record 17-1 mark in the Ohio Athletic Conference and a No. 7 national ranking in NCAA Division III.

We’re talking basketball, not football.

Football is where Mount Union won 13 national D-3 titles under coaches Larry and Vince Kehres. Football is so big at Mount Union, current basketball coach Mike Fuline admits some people warned him the school didn’t care that much about hoops.

“I never believed that,” said Fuline. “Especially not after talking to Larry Kehres.”

In 2011, Kehres was the football coach and athletic director, and he was looking for a new basketball coach. He was hearing about Fuline, who had won the Division I Ohio high school state title at Massillon Jackson High School.

Kehres reached out to Fuline, who had zero experience at the college level.

“Right away, I knew he was the guy for us,” said Kehres. “Sometimes, you can just tell. When he met others (at Mount Union), it was the same response. We should hire him.”


Kehres and I talked about some high school coaches who moved to head coaching positions, and it didn’t always lead to success.

“What about Mike Moran?” said Kehres. “He did pretty well.”

Moran was the former St. Joseph High (now Villa Angela-St. Joseph) coach who went straight to John Carroll. Moran won 14 OAC titles and had 12 NCAA appearances in 25 years.

When Fuline was hired, Mount was coming off six consecutive losing seasons. Only once (1996-97) had Mount won at least 20 games and made the NCAA tournament.

Fuline had losing records in his first two seasons.

Since then, the Purple Raiders have won at least 20 games four times in the last six years. They are in excellent position to make an NCAA tournament appearance.

No one is saying Fuline is the next Mike Moran, but Mount Union now has a coach with deep area high school roots. He also previously coached at Green in Summit County and Rootstown in Portage County. He has been able to attract Northeast Ohio players.

The entire roster is from Ohio, most from the Cleveland/Akron/Canton area.

“That was what I stressed when interviewing for the job," said Fuline. “There is so much talent right in our back yard.”

Mount Union sparkles with YouTube star D’Vontay Friga, overlooked recruit Nathan Bower-Malone —Terry Pluto (1)


The MVP of the Ohio Athletic Conference was telling me how he ended up at Mount Union.

“I knew they were serious when they came to see me play lacrosse,” said Nathan Bower-Malone.

Bower-Malone is a 5-foot-10 senior guard and a mechanical engineering student. He played under Dave Close, the superb coach at Stow High who has more than 500 career victories.

A good high school player, but not great. Bower-Malone said Ohio Northern was the only other school with a serious interest, but that faded over time. Mount stayed in touch. When Fuline showed up in the spring to watch Bower-Malone play lacrosse, he decided he was headed to the Alliance campus.

He has started every game all four years at Mount Union, averaging 17 points, 5.4 assists and shooting .497 from the field this season.


D’Vontay Friga began making his own videos as a way to show the life of a Division III athlete...and yes, maybe gain a little respect for those hooping it up at the smaller schools.

Friga’s YouTube channel now has 103,000 subscribers. . . that’s right, 103,000!

Many of Friga’s videos have more than 200,000 views and a September video in which he went to LeBron James’ old Akron neighborhood and did an “Uncle Drew” Kyrie Irving impression has 939,000 views.

“People recognize him everywhere,” said Bower-Malone. “I’ve had people ask me for my autograph because I’ve been in some of his videos."

Friga also is a 6-foot-2 guard, averaging 15 points, shooting .482 from field (.419 on 3-pointers). Not bad for a lightly recruited player from Cuyahoga Falls who played on the Mount junior varsity for part of his freshman season.

While it takes a certain ego to make YouTube videos, Friga is content to come off the bench with instant offense.

“That’s part of what makes our team special,” said Fuline. “The same is true of Logan Hill (6-foot-7 from Jackson) who also could start for a lot of teams.”

The videos are sharply produced with a slice of college innocence and hope/fear of what comes next in life. He gives a moving tribute to his teammates and small-college basketball.

“When we played at Capital (in Columbus), a family drove in from Philadelphia to see him play and meet D’Vontay,” said Fuline. “It’s amazing, the power of social media."

Mount Union Sports Information Director Lenny Reich said people wait to meet him after most games, “even on our trip to Florida.”

Fuline told Friga to “make sure my kids can watch the videos.”

The coach has his assistants check them out, “but he’s never done anything to embarrass us. They’re really well done.”

Mount Union sparkles with YouTube star D’Vontay Friga, overlooked recruit Nathan Bower-Malone —Terry Pluto (2)


Mount Union has won the last two OAC regular-season titles.

Fuline’s team leads the OAC in shooting percentage (.501), 3-pointers (.391) and free throws (.751) while holding teams to the fewest points (70.4). It uses fast-pace offense and averages 84 points while committing fewest turnovers (11.2) in the conference.

The Purple Raiders have sophom*ore Collen Gurley, averaging 15.2 points. He was the all-time leading Akron Hoban scorer for veteran Coach T.K. Griffith.

They start a 6-foot-11 center named John Carroll (yes, the same as Mount Union’s big OAC rival). The senior has a 3.75 GPA in civil engineering. Their other big man is Braedon Poole (McDonald High), who leads the team with 5.8 rebounds.

Eight players average at least 15 minutes a game as Fuline has built the kind of program Kehres pictured when hiring him.

“This has been a very rewarding season for our players,” said Fuline. “But it also means a lot to me because I know Larry took a chance on me. Not a lot of athletic directors would have taken a coach straight from high school.”


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Mount Union sparkles with YouTube star D’Vontay Friga, overlooked recruit Nathan Bower-Malone — Terry Pluto (2024)


How tall is Devonte Frigga? ›

Weight185 lbs

Who is Frigga? ›

Biography. The Asgardian Frigga, goddess of marriage, was the wife of Odin (former leader of the Norse gods), who raised her husband's son Thor, the god of thunder, though he was not her natural son. She bore three children with Odin: Balder (god of light), Hermod (god of speed), and Tyr (god of war).

Where did D. Vontay Friga go to college? ›

D'Vontay Friga will never forget how he felt when his college basketball career ended without warning. Friga and his Mount Union teammates were a day away from facing Wittenberg in the third round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

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