As the Central Michigan University women's basketball team bus rumbled to another game this past season, Head Coach Sue Guevara looked back to see two of her players writing on a foggy window.
She went to investigate and saw Reyna Frost and a teammate working out a mathematics equation. Guevara smiled and went back to her seat, knowing that's just the way her star forward works.
"She is doing so well in school and on the court because when she makes up her mind to do something, she works at it until she does it well. It doesn't matter how much time or effort it takes," Guevara said.
That dedication to excellence is how Frost managed to carry a 3.68 grade point average as a mathematics major the same time as being named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year. She hopes her success will encourage future CMU student-athletes to follow her example.
Growing up, however, success in academics didn't come as quickly as it did with basketball.
Special education student to college math major
"I struggled with school early and was put in special education until the seventh grade," said the Reese, Michigan, native.
But mathematics kept her from getting discouraged.
"I was always good in math," she said. "It was the one subject that did not frustrate me. I could go home and do my math just as fast as my older brother."
The desire to be like her older brother and sister is what helped influence her to start playing basketball. Once she began, she moved up quickly from a recreational league in fourth grade to receiving her first college scholarship offer as a high school sophomore. After joining an AA traveling team, the scholarship offers multiplied.
She narrowed her choices to three, driven by her desire to get a top-notch education and remain close to home.
"I chose Central because my brother graduated from there with an engineering degree, I knew how much it cared about academics, and that Coach Sue really wants her players to succeed both on the court and as students," she said.
"I want to go as far as I can with basketball, but if things change, I want to have a degree that offers me the most options." — Reyna Frost
When it came time for her to choose a major at CMU, she came back to her old friend mathematics.
"I want to go as far as I can with basketball, but if things change, I want to have a degree that offers me the most options."
Playing the angles
Some of those paths include teaching, doing research or taking it to the stars as an astrophysicist, she said, mulling her life's possible trajectories.
Frost's analytical mind and how she used it to excel in basketball games and in the classroom bring Guevara's admiration, yet the coach admits she sometimes can get momentarily frustrated with the conference-leading rebounder.
She gave the example of teaching a sideline out-of-bounds play that required Frost to cut to a certain spot toward the sideline, where the ball would be. But Frost kept cutting to the wrong spot.
"I told her, 'I need you to cut to the N of Central painted on the floor,'" Guevara said. "I asked her, 'Now, Reyna, what angle is that.' She said, 'Coach, it's 90 degrees.' I said, 'OK, Reyna, I need you to cut 90 degrees to the ball.'"
Then she got it right.
"I thought, 'Well, if that's what it takes, that's what it takes.'"
Beyond the basketball court
Frost's drive for perfection is appreciated beyond the basketball court.
Lisa Demeyer, a mathematics faculty member who teaches a senior capstone course, appreciates the example that Frost and two other student-athletes set for the other students in the class.
"They stand out because they are motivated, hold themselves accountable to themselves and are not daunted by a challenge," she said. "The things that make them successful in sports are the same things that make them successful as students.
"The thing about Reyna is she knows what it takes for her to learn the material or skill. If I assign 20 problems, that might be too many for some students and too few for others. If she thinks she doesn't have it mastered, Reyna will find another 10 or whatever it takes to learn the material."
"She seems to know how to get to where she needs to be. That self-awareness is pretty remarkable."
Frost's advice to future Chippewas
Slipping into teacher mode, Frost offered some advice for middle and high school basketball players looking to play in college.
It can be overwhelming trying to pick a college when you get several offers, especially close to the acceptance deadline, she said.
"First, look at all your options," she advised. "Consider how many players the team has, how much playing time are you going to get. Make sure the degrees that are offered fit what you want and that its location fits in your comfort zone."
Learning time management is crucial for all college students, but particularly so for student-athletes who are trying to juggle academics and athletics, she said. The issue is so pervasive that a simple internet search on the subject turns up dozens of entries.
"You need to know yourself," Frost said. "If you are straining in high school with balancing school work and sports, you have to figure it out before college or you will really struggle."