Feisty Frazier rejoins Illini basketball as graduate assistant

Chester Frazier had a decision to make a year ago: pursue his ultimate goal and become a coach, or chase a dream and play basketball in Europe.

Frazier had an offer to become a student assistant at Illinois, but ultimately chose to play for BG Gottingen, a German team.

“My sophomore and junior years, I really started to think about coaching, but the money was calling in Europe,” Frazier said. “I told (Illinois head coach Bruce Weber), ‘I wish I would’ve stayed.’ I think things could have been a little different had I stayed.”

Frazier stayed in Europe just long enough to learn how to say “please,” “thank you” and “all is well.”

But after winning a championship with Gottingen, while calling or e-mailing Weber at least once a week with advice, Frazier got an offer to become a graduate assistant and video coordinator at Illinois.

This time, he couldn’t turn it down and was announced to fill that position Tuesday.

“He was a player with these guys, so they respect him. He was part of them and he played at such a high level, so he knows what it takes,” Weber said.

“He can say some things that come from a different viewpoint because of the relationship he has with them and the respect they have for him.”

Frazier won’t be allowed on the floor with his new position, but says he’ll be able to help as a leader for the team he left just two years ago.

“We have a few young guys here and I think they could use my help,” Frazier said.

“Basically, I’ll just be another bench influence with the coaches upstairs and let them know what I see around them.”

Last year, the Illini were plagued with inconsistency, which kept them out of the NCAA Tournament.

Frazier thinks his leadership and advice can help get the 2010 version of the Illini over the hump.

“They’re 18, 19-year-old kids. Sometimes they don’t know what it means to fully prepare for a game,” he said. “It’s more than physical, it’s mental. Studying your opponent, I mean, a lot of guys don’t watch film, just drilling it into their heads that they need to watch film. Just different things to get them mentally prepared for games.”

This isn’t Frazier’s first post-collegiate experience with the team — he spent last summer with the Illini, which allowed him to build a relationship with some of the younger players.

“He dragged me up to the gym at 11 o’clock at night, working on our game,” sophomore Tyler Griffey said. “He dragged me and Mike Davis up here at midnight last Sunday for two hours. He brought some noodles like you see at the pool and was just hacking the heck out of us … It’s going to be really good for me personally.”

Frazier’s job typically lasts one year, but he said he wouldn’t be opposed to fill it for two. If an Illinois assistant coaching job doesn’t open up, he said he has plenty of contacts in the coaching world and shouldn’t have a problem getting a job.

As for the allure of playing professional basketball, Frazier isn’t looking back. “I’m still really competitive. I love basketball,” he said. “But I get a chance to help the guys and I live for this University, so it’s a good thing.”