CINCINNATI -- Seven-foot center Kenny Frease spent four years at Xavier University before launching his professional basketball career overseas, and he couldn't be happier with the way his life has progressed.
Frease, 27, lives in Germany with his wife, Emily (nee Mayers), a former Xavier volleyball player. They married at a U.S. courthouse in 2012 and had a church wedding in 2013, and just last week they welcomed their first child: Kenneth Eugene Frease IV.
Proud papa Frease was eager to share pictures and talk about his newborn son.
"I am just excited to see who he is and how he grows up. I have always wanted to have a family, so the last couple days have been the most rewarding days of my life," Frease wrote via email from Germany, where he recently wrapped up the season with Science City Jena in Basketball Bundesliga.
The Freases return to the U.S. every summer and, depending on his team's place in the playoffs, reside here as long as three months each time. Their son's recent birth and the wait for his passport are keeping them in Jena for now.
The foundation for Frease's current life started when he accepted a Xavier scholarship to play for then-coach Sean Miller in 2008-09. Frease met his future wife the day he arrived on campus.
Frease went on to help Xavier to three regular-season Atlantic 10 Conference titles and four NCAA tournament appearances through 2011-12. In fact, Xavier went to three Sweet 16s in his tenure, including his career finale, a 75-70 loss to Baylor in Atlanta.
Although Frease averaged 10.2 points and a team-best 6.1 rebounds as a senior, fans probably remember him more for the 2011 Crosstown Shootout brawl at Cintas Center. Cincinnati's Yancy Gates punched Frease in the face in a fracas that left eight players suspended and triggered the rivalry game's move to a neutral site for two years.
The punch required seven stitches near Frease's left eye. As the story made national waves, he reached out to Gates to assure him that he would not press charges.
"Obviously, there's no room for that in a basketball game. But to pursue somebody criminally for something that happens in something that's competitive -- that seemed immature to me," Frease said in 2011. "And I didn't want him to be punished for something for his whole life because of something that he did in in a game that is that emotional."
Now, Frease said, the brawl seems "like a lifetime ago."
"At this point it only comes up as a joke if somebody I know from my college days is playing against me. It was a crazy day and I think everybody that was involved regrets it ever happening. Both programs' reputations were hurt by that fight and I hope people don't look at that one incident as something that defines them," Frease said.
"And I have nothing but respect for UC, even if we had some heated battles. One of my teammates from Jena this year actually played for UC a while back -- Immanuel McElroy -- and he talks about how much fun he had playing there and how much tradition the program has."
Frease has played professionally for five years now, mostly in Germany and briefly in Turkey. He and his wife have lived in Tuebingen, Quakenbrueck, Giresun (Turkey), Braunschweig and now Jena.
European basketball is different than the American game -- the shot clock is 24 seconds but on an offensive rebound it resets to 14 instead of 24, and after a shot hits the rim players can knock the ball out and it's not considered goaltending – but Frease enjoys it.
He has crossed paths with former Xavier players Isaiah Philmore and Josh Duncan. Frease hasn't been in the same country as former teammates Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons but said he knows "they are both having real success over here, too, playing in Israel."
Besides being paid to play the sport he loves, Frease said the overseas experience has afforded him great opportunities to see the world.
"Last year, Emily and I went to Kiruna, Sweden. It was truly an incredible adventure. We got to ride snowmobiles, captain a team of sled dogs, and see the amazing natural phenomenon that is the Northern Lights," Frease said.
Frease is unsure where he will play next year and said he'll have discussions this summer with his agent.
Regardless of his future, he said he will always remember Xavier, the place he made lifelong friends and met "the love of my life."
"The thing I miss most about playing at Xavier is the fans," Frease said. "The Xavier family was so big and the support was amazing. Fans over here are great, but the feeling of playing for a program that you have put so much sweat into with teammates you've had for years is such a great feeling."