Chester Frazier graduated in 2009 after being named Most Valuable Player of the 2008-09 Illinois basketball team. He considered a coaching career right out of college, but he still had the urge to play ball. After a year playing overseas and enduring a couple injuries, Frazier is back on campus serving as video coordinator.
The transition to coaching has been a struggle at times, but he appears to have accepted his situation.
"I'm doing okay. I'm still figuring things out. I'm definitely accustomed to it. I don't really have the urge to play right now. Right now my focus is on doing my job here."
Regardless, it has been tough getting the bug to play out of his system.
"It is, but I knew what I was getting myself into before I came. I'm anxious to play, but I'm more anxious to see us win."
Frazier was asked if he enjoyed working with video.
"I've always been a basketball junkie. I just like watching college basketball. Any time I can sit down and watch a game on my own is great."
There are limits to what he can do to help the team.
"I really can't talk to them about it. I can sit in the meetings and listen to see what's going on with the coaches, what they're thinking. But I can't do anything in terms of interacting with the players and technically coaching."
Frazier loves coaching. If he can't coach, what part of his job is most fun for him?
"Just seeing guys get better. Seeing the guys grow not only as basketball players but as men. A lot of guys that were on my team are still around. Seeing them having some success and even giving themselves a chance to make the NBA is good for me."
Illinois coach Bruce Weber likes having Frazier around.
"He's got that youthful energy, he has a good relationship with the guys. He still can hang with them a little bit, play video games and watch games with them. It's a positive thing for us because he has that motivation and that drive, understands how hard you've got to play, what it takes.
"Winning is so important to him. But yet he can bring that from a different viewpoint. And help us by being a regular guy and hanging out with them.
"He would like to be on the floor coaching, that's the tough thing. You can see him sometimes starting to edge out to the court."
At least, Frazier can provide input during coach meetings.
"You want input from everybody, giving in meetings," Weber reminds. "That helps. More eyes, more minds, more viewpoints."
Away from the practice court, Frazier can share memories and describe things that made him a quality player. He is still more a part of the team than the coaching staff during off hours according to Bill Cole.
"It's great having him around. He's just a good personality to have on the coaches' side. He's been through it before, so he knows what he's talking about. Anytime you have a guy you can relate to, especially someone you played with two years ago, it's good to have on your team."
Point guard Demetri McCamey enjoys talking shop with his friend and mentor away from practice.
"He can see those aspects of being a coach and being a player as well. When he talks to you, you listen even though you remember him more as Chester than Coach. He's been there, done that. You can relate to him better than Coach Weber, who is in his '50's."
Frazier experienced the Big 10 wars four years and understands the ups and downs. He can provide a calming effect on current Illini after upset losses to apparently weaker foes.
"It's basketball. Everybody has ups and downs. Look through the top 25, everybody's going through ups and downs. It's how you fight that, and how you finish the season.
"Every game is tough in the Big 10. You can't be surprised by any team beating any teams. It's awfully hard to win road games in the Big 10. That's the bottom line."
Some coaches are good recruiters because they develop personal relationships with prospects. But not all of them can maintain discipline in practices and games while being buddies with their players. Frazier was asked if he thought about a day down the line where he would have to establish discipline with friends and begin to create distance between himself and his players.
"I don't think that's always true. I think the closer you are to your players, the harder they'll play for you. Sometimes you do have to draw the line between friend and coach and make your boundaries. It's hard to discipline when you're buddies with them.
"In my case, I think these guys respect me. So I don't think I'll have a problem with that. If I do, I'll have to draw that line one day. You just have to realize off the court is one thing, on the court is another. That's the bottom line.
"It's possible to maintain that relationship off the court and still maintain an authority figure on the court. Some coaches struggle with it, but sometimes you've just got to find different ways."
Weber says playing is out of Frazier's system, at least for the moment.
"Unless something comes up, I think he'll probably stay here and get his Master's in two years. And then hope something works out. I think he'd still love to play; I don't know if he'll get a middle aged crisis a year from now and want to go back and play."
Frazier qualifies his future also.
"I'm done playing for now. I like what I'm doing now, I like to see people get better. Right now it's out of my system."