Frazier's growth is evident

Frazier's growth is evident

ROSEMONT — Trent Frazier has not shied away from the doubts he had in himself as a freshman.

A year ago at this time? The 6-foot-1 guard was questioning whether he could truly compete at the Big Ten level.

Illinois men's basketball coach Brad Underwood brings up the Illini's hurricane relief exhibition frequently when discussing Frazier's growth. The then freshman guard objectively struggled against Eastern Illinois last November. It wasn't until nearly four weeks later — Illinois' opening Big Ten week in early December — that Frazier started to break though.

Even then it wasn't right away. Frazier barely played in Illinois' overtime loss to Northwestern. The Illini lost again in overtime two days later to Maryland, but Frazier had 11 points, seven assists and four rebounds.

"At first I didn't know if I could play in this league," Frazier said Thursday during Big Ten basketball media day. "Being able to get out of that slump and end up being one of the best freshmen in this conference — even the country — I take that to heart. I only want to get better from here."

All it took was a willingness to be coached. Frazier admits he didn't necessarily have it when he arrived at Illinois in summer 2017.

"I kind of felt like when (the coaches) used to tell me stuff I didn't want to listen sometimes," Frazier said. "I felt like I was always right. As I matured, I kind of realized they know everything. Coach Underwood is an unbelievable coach. Maturing this year and coming back as a veteran, the willingness to listen and be coached is really important to me, and I think that's going to help me down the road."

Underwood said Frazier was "humbled" at the beginning of his freshman season. He had a couple of 10-point performances against Marshall and Division III Augustana, but the three games leading into his breakout effort against the Terrapins saw him score three, two and zero points.

"It was probably the first time in Trent's life he needed guidance about basketball," Underwood said. "He was doubting himself. That's when you have to stop and say, 'Hey, I've got to listen. I've got to pay attention. I've got to start doing some things right.' To his credit, he did all those things, and he's continued to. He's never stopped. That's competitive pride as I call it."

Aaron Jordan said some of Illinois' veteran players took Frazier aside early last season to help get him on track, and Frazier credits his teammates, as much as the Illini coaches, for building up his confidence.

"He had a slow start, but we really took him under our wing and said, 'Hey dude, we've all been through this. You're a good player. You're here for a reason,' " Jordan said. "All he needed was that one breakout moment and that one game. Seeing the player he's developing into right now is great. I'm excited about it because I know he knows what he needs to work on and he's willing to be coached."

Frazier has told his story to Illinois' freshmen. He's trying to get across the point that, like him, they probably don't know everything. The coaches might.

"(Assistant coach Chin Coleman), me and him always used to work on my game," Frazier said. "During the games he'd tell me moves to do, I'd do it and I'd score. It was incredible to realize these coaches really know everything. That's advice, a lesson, these freshmen should take. We don't have all the answers. They do."

Frazier's growth continued this offseason. His work in the weight room has enhanced his ability to finish at the rim, and the sophomore lefty made it a point this summer to finish with his right hand as much as possible. Now he feels like his right hand is almost as good as his natural left.

"He knew he needed to get better going right," Underwood said. "He knew he had to get better finishing. He had to become a better free throw shooter. When you understand your inefficiencies and are willing to accept them, you can work at them and make them better. He's done a lot of that."

Underwood had one word for Frazier going from legitimate doubts in himself and his abilities to returning All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection in just 12 months."It's crazy, isn't it?" Underwood said. "It's crazy. He's a guy that arguably is as good as any guard sitting in this room. I think he knows that. I think he's in a place where he's paid the price to be really good. I hope Trent doesn't have to have a huge night every night. That means our team's gotten a lot better. When he becomes an elite facilitator, then we're cooking with gas.

"Trent's got a big job. He's going to be at the top of everybody's scouting report. That will be a little different role for him, but he's up to the challenge. I'm excited for his sophomore year."