COLUMBIA, Mo. — If someone were to suggest Jordan Frericks is soft-spoken, she'd smile and quietly say that's pretty accurate.
"My voice has always been something that I struggle with," she said.
A year spent off the court helped the University of Missouri women's basketball standout find that voice. And it's another reason to take the Tigers' quest to be one of the Southeastern Conference's elite teams seriously.
Frericks, a two-time Herald-Whig Player of the Year during her prep career at Quincy Notre Dame, is returning from a serious knee injury that derailed her senior season before it got started. She suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in her right knee while shooting a layup in practice.
What followed was surgery, rehabilitation and a transformation from quiet assassin to vocal threat.
"The perspective that you get while sitting out is unique," Frericks said. "I'm not taking things for granted this year. ... Being able to grow in the areas of a leader is a big thing. I knew I needed to be more vocal. Since that was the only aspect of leadership I could contribute to my team, it was an area I had to grow.
"I'm a fifth-year experienced senior. I'm going to do my best to lead this team on and off the court. I'm here to do anything for this team."
Leadership is clearly part of that.
In September, Frericks was asked to represent Mizzou on the SEC women's basketball leadership council, which consists of one player from each of the league's 14 schools.
"Anytime you have a player that's been here for five years, that maturity level, that understanding of expectations and details and the discipline that you need to have day in and day out -- she's certainly an impact player on the court," Mizzou coach Robin Pingeton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "She just gives us an anchor inside."
Her leadership is welcome, but what the Tigers truly expect from the 6-foot-1 Frericks is rebounding, scoring and a heck of a lot of toughness.
She's ready to deliver in all of those areas.
"I feel confident," Frericks said. "I'm doing everything I could do a year ago. I feel good. Practices are going good. No pain, so things are going well."
Prior to the first serious injury of her career, Frericks enjoyed a junior season in which she averaged 12.1 points and 7.7 rebounds and was named to the All-SEC second team. She climbed into the top 10 for career rebounds, blocked shots, rebounding average and field goal percentage and has the chance to graduate as the program's all-time leader in rebounds if she produces like she did during the 2015-16 season.
"The anticipation of coming back and playing is huge," Frericks said. "It's been a long road. There's so much excitement to play another year with these girls that I've been with for so long and a coaching staff that has been so amazing. I'm so blessed to be here."
Coming back was always the plan.
"(The injury) was definitely not going to be my ending here at Mizzou," Frericks said.
It took some tenacity and mental toughness to make it back.
"The first couple weeks were the toughest," Frericks said. "I wasn't able to walk. The support that I had around me was just amazing. I had a whole team of doctors and trainers helping me. I had my coaches and my teammates and my family. They helped me and pushed me through those first couple of weeks."
After that, it was all about getting physically prepared to handle the rigors of an SEC season.
How playing a power position impacts her knee has never really bothered Frericks.
"Through the journey, you're going to have some times when it's a little iffy," she said. "I think I'm almost 100 percent past that point. There are still a few minor thoughts that go through my mind, but I'm not dwelling on the thoughts of what could happen. It's moving forward and knowing it's not going to happen.
"It's definitely not on my mind during the game. It's something that could come up after practice, but to be honest, it rarely does."
When it does, all she has to do is look around the locker room for a reminder of why she wanted to be a part of this team.
"So much talent," Frericks said. "So excited for this season."
There's some excitement for the future, too.
Frericks will graduate with a degree in architecture with an emphasis on interior design, but she hasn't planned yet for what that career might hold.
She's more focused on this season and how it could lead to an opportunity playing professionally.
"Honestly, I want to continue to play after college if I have the opportunity," Frericks said. "It's a game that I love and that I've learned so much from."
Among other things, it's given her a voice.
"There are so many areas of growth that doesn't just apply to basketball or the physical game," Frericks said. "The life lessons I've learned here, how important relationships are, there's so much more, I could go on and on about the things that I've learned.
"There's always opportunity to improve. That's why I get another year. I get the chance to do that."