Dom Fragala spins the ball in his left hand, bounces it with his right, and releases in two-and-a-half seconds. This season, the senior has spent more than 12 minutes in games catching and shooting 303 free throws.
By making 265 of those (good for an 87.5 percent clip), the 5-foot-11 guard has cracked the Virginia High School League record books. No player in state history has made more free throws in a single season than Fragala.
“Repetition is key,” Fragala said. “It’s easy points. Get to the line, do my routine, and it goes in.”
Efficiency at the line has helped Fragala lead the area in scoring at 36.5 points per game this winter, and heading into the 4A West region playoffs Saturday, Fragala is within striking distance of another scoring record set by one of Virginia’s basketball legends. Allen Iverson netted 948 points in 30 games while leading Bethel to the AAA state title in 1993. Fragala has 885 points in 24 games. If he continues at his current clip, Fragala would need two region playoff games to eclipse the mark.
In the open court, Fragala has shredded defenses with his combination of driving into contact and pulling up at full speed for jump shots, including from three-point range. He accounts for 47 percent of the Knights’ scoring output.
“You try everything you can to play defense with your hands up, so you don’t foul him and make him make tough shots,” said Freedom-South Riding Coach Justin Powers, whose team allowed 126 points to Fragala in three games against Champe. “He gets comfortable if you do the same thing over and over, so it’s important to mix up your defenses. But no matter what you do, everybody needs to keep an eye on him.”
Unlike Iverson’s brash on-court personality, Fragala’s success is the product of a quiet confidence earned in early shooting sessions before school. Every morning, he sticks to a breakfast routine of three eggs, peanut-butter toast, and cheerios. When Champe doesn’t have a game, he takes an hour of foul shots before school to get his day going.
“I’ll see the stats and be like ‘oh’. I’ll acknowledge it and just worry about the next game,” Fragala said. “I’m a pretty quiet guy.”
In mid-December, Fragala followed up a 63-point performance against rival Freedom-South Riding with 52 against Briar Woods. He was 45-50 from the line in those two wins and has led the area in scoring average ever since.
After the hot start, teammates naturally wondered if his gaudy numbers were sustainable. As the season wore on, opponents prepared multiple defenses, but no combination of double-teams and presses provided an answer for his scoring touch.
“At the start of the season, we didn’t know what to think. We didn’t know if Dom scoring 40 a game would work, but then we put our trust in him,” senior guard Zion Brown said. “We know his ability to score is the main reason we win.”
Before his junior season, Fragala moved to Champe’s district after two years at O’Connell, a private school in Arlington. The move to Loudoun County has allowed Fragala to step out of his comfort zone as a leader.
Despite his volume of shots and the attention his highlights have garnered across social media, Fragala’s quiet personality has maintained balance in the Knights’ locker room.
“He’s that silent kind of killer with ice water in the veins. He can shake anything off with a short memory” coach Bill Maher said. “If he was more of a loud individual, there may have been a situation, but he’s very calm and likeable. Everyone on the team gets a long with him well.”
Last winter, Fragala averaged 18.3 points as a secondary scorer on Champe’s first state semifinal team. Playing alongside physical forward Kuony Deng (who now plays basketball at VMI) and point guard Zach Burdick (football for William & Mary), Fragala provided a perimeter threat in a balanced offense.
This year, the Knights (14-10) have relied on him to do much more as they return to the region playoffs for the third consecutive season.
“Last year he had more of an equal role as the other two,” Maher said. “This year, I did realize that he was going to have a major role, but I was a little bit surprised that he was able to make the adjustment so well.”
Fragala has surpassed 24 points in all but two games, and poured in 40 or more nine times. In practice, Maher will ask three or four defenders to chase Fragala to prepare for the defensive attention his statistics and game tape warrant. Some teams have implemented a box-and-one (a zone defense where one player is designated to guard Fragala man-to-man), while others fight to deny him any inbound pass and use a straight double team.
No matter the defensive strategy, Fragala’s quick release has consistently found openings to shoot or draw contact.
“I look to see who’s the slowest defender and try to get around him. Once I’m dribbling, the quick release is everything,” Fragala said. “I’m always comfortable with my shot, but I have some days where I feel like I can’t miss. I just feel it in my body, I can’t miss.”
Fragala packed on 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and increased his stamina. The extra burst has allowed him to shoulder a larger scoring load as a senior, and colleges have taken notice.He received a scholarship offer from Mississippi Valley State in December and has interest from a host of other Division I schools.
Before he attacks collegiate defenses, though, Fragala hopes to spend a few more mornings practicing his free throws on the way back to the state semifinals in Richmond.
“When I first heard about the record, I was surprised. I didn’t realizing I was doing that,” Fragala said. “But at this point I don’t care at all. I just want to make it as far as possible.”