February 6, 2023
How a DM on Instagram got one of the Pac-12’s best 3-point shooters to Colorado
Frida Formann's consistency and high basketball IQ has helped Colorado find success the last few years
College basketball is filled with international players. How these student-athletes end up at their respective schools is different in every case. Some coaching staffs have assistant coaches whose sole job is to find and recruit international prospects. Some staffs have coaches who go to European championships and see players they think will be a good fit. However, for Colorado junior Frida Formann, her recruitment to Boulder started slightly differently than most other international recruits. A middle of the night DM on Instagram from head coach JR Payne.
“Someone that we knew from past years recruiting, a coach in Denmark, reached out, and I’m never awake in the middle of the night. I got a message at like 2 am from this guy. Hey, here’s there’s a kid here I think you should look at and I was just awake. So I looked at it and it was literally the middle of the night and I wrote him back immediately, ‘yes, yes, yes, yes.’ Like we love her,” Payne told The Next. “We just reached out and T and I flew out there to spend some time with her and her family… we just really hit it off and she took several visits. But in the end, it just honestly was kind of a perfect fit.”
Formann was born and raised in Bagsværd, Denmark, a suburb of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. Formann was born into a basketball family. Her mom played for the Danish national team and her dad helped coach the Danish national team. She has three older siblings, all of whom have played basketball either professionally or in college. To say basketball runs in Formann’s blood is an understatement.
When Formann arrived in Boulder, the Buffs were coming off four straight seasons, finishing ninth or worse in the Pac-12 under head coach JR Payne. The Colorado program has seen a lot of success but hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament or won 20 games in a season since 2013. However, in Formann’s first season, that all changed.
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In 2020-21, Formann’s first season in Boulder, the Buffs finished 12-11 in the COVID-filled season and had their best Pac-12 season since 2013, finishing 8-8 in league play. This success qualified the Buffaloes for the WNIT, where they advanced to the third round before losing to eventual runner up Ole Miss.
Formann played a big role in the team’s success in her freshman year. She averaged 12.4 points per game, three rebounds a game and shot 41% from the 3-point line. In the Buffaloes’ win over No. 1 Stanford in January, Formann scored 15 points, grabbed six rebounds and knocked down three triples. Due to her performance against the Bay Area schools over that weekend, she was named Pac-12 and USBWA Freshman of the Week. Her performance over the year garnered her honorable mention Pac-12 All-Freshman status.
“I think I was just coming in with confidence and just really ready to be a sponge and learn everything I could. And then during the first practice, I kind of realized that I had something that we were missing,” Formann told The Next. “There’s some shooting and some basketball IQ that I thought I could contribute with, though, so they show great confidence in me to just come in and play right away.”
After a stellar freshman campaign, Formann took a step back in her sophomore year. Her scoring and 3-point shooting dropped by over 30% her second year. However, that didn’t stop her from contributing to the team’s success. The Buffaloes won 22 games a season ago, including nine Pac-12 games, finishing fifth in the conference. They also advanced to the Pac-12 tournament semifinals, with Formann scoring the final five points to help seal the Buffaloes’ victory over Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals. The success garnered Colorado their first NCAA tournament appearance in nine seasons.
The team’s success was fantastic, but Formann’s struggles were a bit of a surprise. She’d had so much success her freshman year, especially from the 3-point line and a lot of freshmen see a downtick their sophomore year as opposing teams get to know them and their tendencies. Both Formann and Payne felt that the struggles were mental for Formann. Payne feels that her shots not falling affected her overall game more than Formann wanted, but it was something she has learned and grown from heading into this year.
Now coming into her junior year, there were a lot of unknowns about Colorado. The team had just lost WNBA first-round pick Mya Hollingshed and came into the season picked eighth by both the coaches and the media. However, once again, the Buffs were out to prove people wrong.
“It’s been awesome. I came in pretty humble. And it was like, well, let me just see if I really belong here,” said Formann. “I think I’ve just really enjoyed this process with this team and figuring out that we do belong where we are and we do belong at the top of the league and just like the confidence we’ve gained and the chemistry we’ve gained over the years have been amazing to be a part of, and I’m just so happy that that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Colorado currently sits in third place in the Pac-12 at 18-5, 9-3 in conference play. They would need one more conference win to get to double-digit Pac-12 wins for the first time in 10 years. The Buffaloes have three wins over ranked teams, including an OT win against UCLA last weekend. The Buffs are on pace for back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since the early 2000s.
Formann has played a big role in the teams’ ranked wins this season. Formann put up 20 points to help the Buffs hand Utah their first loss of the season. Then, in the next game, Formann put up a season-high 23 points, including five made threes in a win over then No. 14 Arizona. Formann has found her freshman-year form once again, averaging 11 points a game and shooting 39% from beyond the arc.
One of the biggest reasons for Formann’s return to freshman year form has to do with the time she spent over the summer with the Danish national team. She spent a lot of the summer playing 3×3 and pickup with her national team back home and it allowed her to get back to her basketball roots of being a scorer. Formann also learned to let go when she has a bad a game. Payne says she doesn’t care anymore if she goes 0 for 10 or 10 for 10; she’s just going to keep trying her best to play great basketball.
Playing with the Danish national team has been a part of Formann’s life since the day she was born. Formann’s mom played for the national team in the 80s and Frida has gotten that opportunity multiple times in her career. She played on the U18 Danish national team and even played on the Danish national 3×3 team in the FIBA Europe Cup 2022 qualifiers.
Formann also got the opportunity to play for the senior national team during the middle of the college basketball season, no less. In late November, she missed the Buffaloes game at Tennessee to play with the national team in the Women’s Eurobasket qualifiers. In Denmark’s game against Montenegro, Formann got the start and scored 12 points. It meant a lot to Formann and something coach Payne wasn’t going to let her miss.
“It’s a big deal. It’s always when you play for a small country that’s not really that good, usually, at basketball. You have to carry the team a lot more if you’re a good player. I think that’s given me a lot. You play with players who are much older than you in the league and you kind of just grow up a little faster and have to develop a wider skill set,” Formann said on playing with the national team.
“I think it meant a lot to her. It meant a lot for me, you know, to be able to allow her that opportunity. You know, there’s not too many American kids that get a chance to wear the USA jersey. And so to be able to play for your country on your senior team in a game that was really important to them. I was happy, you know, for her to have that opportunity. So I think it’s a lot of trust between us,” Payne said of allowing Freeman to go play with her national team in the middle of Colorado’s season.
At the end of the day, Formann is the kind of player all teams want. She is consistent, with a very high basketball IQ. She wants to win and wants the ball when the game is in crunch time. She doesn’t take up the spotlight, but her play has helped elevate the Buffaloes to a consistent Pac-12 threat.
“Not just from a X’s and O’s standpoint, but really she’s just a really great young woman like she’s very loyal. She’s very caring, her teammates trust her immensely on and off the floor. She holds us to a high standard of not just basketball, but like just being a great person,” Payne said. “She’s highly intelligent in the classroom, really thrives you know, in school. Will start a master’s degree here pretty soon. Loves our environment, she’s environmental science. It matters to her, she pours into that. She’s a great teammate like works hard, no matter what all day every day is positive is uplifting. She’s honestly a coach’s dream.”
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.