Frazier excited to play at home

The Gators will play their first of two instate neutral site game on Sunday when they face Middle Tennessee State in Tampa. It's an opportunity for the team to play across the state in front of fans that may not be able to make a trip to Gainesville. It also allows some Gators to play in front of family and friends, which will happen for freshman guard Michael Frazier on Sunday.

"I'm definitely excited to go home and see my family and have my family see me play," said Michael Frazier, who currently has 12 tickets for family and friends for Sunday's game at 4 p.m. in the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Frazier moved to Tampa and played the first three years of high school at Plant High School. That's where he was recognized as one of the best basketball players in the state.

The four-star guard moved to Montverde Academy for his senior year of high school to become better prepared for the college game. He played with multiple Division 1 players and had defense and rebounding pounded into his head at practice.

That's where he has made his mark for the Gators this year. After losing first-rounder Brad Beal to the NBA last season, Donovan was nervous about how the Gators would be able to rebound. He had the same mindset the year before when Chandler Parsons graduated and Beal stepped in as a first-year player.

Frazier has eliminated some of those fears through two games this year.

"I was very concerned, with the loss of Beal last year and the loss of Parsons the year before, but we've rebounded the ball really well from that small forward position," Donovan said. "When we take Yeguete off the floor and Michael moves into the three, he has done a pretty good job on the backboard for us.

"He has to get better defensively guarding the basketball and understanding rotations, which I think most freshmen go through."

There hasn't been much doubt about his ability to score the ball. He was a prolific scorer in high school and showed it off immediately in Gainesville with a 21-point performer in an exhibition win over Nebraska-Kearney where he went 8-of-10 from the field and 5-of-6 from behind the three-point line.

As his defense and rebounding continue to improve, Donovan's trust with Frazier on the court will continue to grow. His shot from behind the three-point line makes him a threat as the other parts of his game continue to improve.

"I'm getting the hang of it now," Frazier said. "The four freshmen—we're just working hard every day. The coaches and upperclassmen are helping us get through it."

In the four-man freshman class, Frazier has become the one seeing the court the most. Guards Dillon Graham and Braxton Ogbueze joined forward DeVon Walker as players that have also seen the court. However, with Scottie Wilbekin suspended during the first two games of the year, Frazier became the first man off the bench.

It's not a complicated formula to get on the floor during your first year under Donovan.

"I tell every freshman class this – there are three things that allow freshmen to play," Donovan said. "The first thing is, they have to have an understanding of how competitive they have to play inside the game. The second thing is, can you physically compete? Michael has done that. He's not afraid to put his body in play. The third thing is, do you know what we're doing? If you don't know what we're doing, it's really hard to put you on the floor."

Frazier continues to improve in all areas, and as that happens, his playing time will continue to increase.

"Coach really emphasizes defense and rebounding, so those are the things I want to focus on," Frazier said.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE: The Blue Raiders are coming off a strong season that featured the most wins in program history and a 27-7 record. They won the Sun Belt Conference and also set a school record with 14 conference wins. Their season ended in the NIT quarterfinals with a six-point loss to Minnesota.

"Sometimes people look at leagues and determine if it's a BCS, high major or mid-major. Middle Tennessee State, the past couple years, has been a high major program. They've got a lot of depth and are very well coached.

"(Head coach) Kermit (Davis) was in the SEC with John Brady at LSU. He has been around a long time and built an incredible program there."

Senior guard James Gallman leads Middle Tennessee State with 8.5 points, while senior guard Bruce Massey is averaging 6.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. It's a well balanced and experienced team that the Gators will face on Sunday.

This is an unbelievable challenge for us. In some ways, it's a way more difficult challenge than playing Wisconsin because we've got a lot more to get prepared for.

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