Frazier uses Naismith snub to turn in best game of season

Senior+Trent+Frazier+passes+to+his+left+during+the+game+against+Ohio+State+on+Jan.+16.+Frazier+declared+for+the+NBA+Draft+Friday%2C+though+he+is+still+eligible+to+return+for+a+fifth+season.

Ryan Ash

Senior Trent Frazier passes to his left during the game against Ohio State on Jan. 16. Frazier declared for the NBA Draft Friday, though he is still eligible to return for a fifth season.

By Brandon Simberg, Staff Writer

One day before Illinois was set to face off with No. 7 Iowa, Trent Frazier received some disheartening news. Fifteen players were named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year watch list, and for the second straight season, the senior point guard did not make the list.

He publicly showed his frustration, quote-tweeting the list, saying, “Hahaha what a joke.”

“Whoever my matchup is, whoever my assignment is, I just go out there and try to do my job for 40 minutes,” Frazier said. “My teammates believe in me to guard the other team’s best player. That’s frustrating to me because I know what I can do on that side of the basketball. But it’s a bigger goal, right now I just want to help my team win.”

Given the raw numbers, it’s not a total surprise that Frazier didn’t make the list. He’s averaging just 1.4 stocks (steals + blocks) per game and his defensive box/plus-minus (+3.2) is lower than the players who made the list. But head coach Brad Underwood believes his senior makes an impact beyond those metrics and deserves to be on the list.

“I don’t know what they look for,” Underwood said. “I know so many of those deals get based on a steals number or get based on a blocked shots number. I think anybody who’s faced Trent Frazier, coaches will know if he’s not the best, (then he is) one of the best defenders and has taken a lot of guys out of a lot of things.”

A day later, Frazier used that as motivation. He hounded Iowa senior point guard Jordan Bohannon, limiting him to just six points on 2-6 shooting.

Besides his stellar defense, Frazier also had his best game of the season offensively. He hit timely shots in both halves, going for a season-high 24 points. With Kofi Cockburn being held to just nine points, his lowest total in conference play, and Adam Miller going scoreless, Frazier’s offense was sorely needed.

To some, this breakout game may have come as a surprise, but not to Underwood. Underwood noticed Frazier shooting lights out in the practices between the Penn State and Iowa games. One day, Underwood split the teams up evenly for a scrimmage. It didn’t matter who was guarding him that day, Frazier was scoring at will. Underwood lost track of how many consecutive buckets the Florida native made.

“It wasn’t just the days we scrimmaged, it was the days up in preparation,” Underwood said. “He didn’t miss shots against the zone, and that’s awesome to see. It’s fun.”

With a win in Frazier’s 24-point outing, Illinois is now 7-1 when their senior lefty scores in double figures. His offensive production has been a bit of a wild card this season, oftentimes merely providing an extra layer to the Ayo Dosunmu/Kofi Cockburn duo. But on an off-night for the center, Frazier showed he can be a second option on offense, all while guarding the opposing team’s best guard.

@BrandonSimberg

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