CHAMPAIGN — Turns out four seasons at Illinois wasn’t enough for Trent Frazier.
The senior guard announced Saturday afternoon — after a series of social-media teases throughout the day — that he would utilize his bonus year of eligibility and return to play for the Illini in 2021-22.
Frazier entered his name in the 2021 NBA draft on April 9, but did so with the intent to hire an NCAA-approved agent and maintain his eligibility. All players were given an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and seniors, who return to the same program, won’t count against scholarship limits.
“I want to take the time and say thank you for everything, Illini nation,” Frazier said in a video posted to social media. “You guys have made these past your years such an amazing journey. … After talking to my family and coaches, we have decided it’s the best decision (to return to Illinois).”
Frazier averaged 10.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists during the 2020-21 season while shooting 40 percent overall, 36.2 percent from three-point range (a vast improvement from a year prior) and 83.1 percent at the free-throw line.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard was named to the Big Ten All-Defense team and was also an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection. At that time, that bookended his Illinois career after he earned Big Ten All-Freshman honors in 2017-18.
Frazier’s decision to return to Illinois for a fifth season will provide a veteran presence in a rebuilt Illinois backcourt after Ayo Dosunmu declared for the 2021 NBA draft and Adam Miller opted to enter the transfer portal. Now, Frazier returns alongside Andre Curbelo, Utah transfer Alfonso Plummer and incoming freshman Brandin Podziemski.
A healthy Austin Hutcherson would bolster that group even more in addition to providing more size alongside Frazier, the 6-1 Curbelo and the 6-2 Plummer.
An evolving roster for the 2021-22 season will also mean Frazier will play a role in the next stage of Brad Underwood’s program. A John Groce recruit, Frazier stuck with Illinois after the coaching change before his freshman season and then stayed through two losing seasons before the success came the past two seasons.
And Frazier never wavered in his commitment.
“Not a chance,” he said last month during Illinois’ NCAA tournament run. “That’s why I’m still here. I believed in the coaching staff. I believed in Coach Underwood. I knew what he’d done in his college career as a coach. I watched him coach in March Madness games. I’d seen how good his teams were. That’s why I’m still here.
“I believed in the whole, entire coaching staff. I believed in him changing this program around and getting it to where it needed to be. He’s done that, and I’m very blessed to be a part of that.”