IlliniBoard Summer Series: Chester Frazier

In the seventh edition of the Summer Series, looks at the first of Illinois' two sophomore point guards, Chester Frazier. Last season Frazier became a favorite of many fans for his bulldog-like approach to the game while he was backing up Dee Brown. This year Chester has the chance to relinquish the backup role and become Illinois' starting point guard.

If there was an entry in the dictionary for the mentality that Bruce Weber looks for in a basketball player, I think Chester Frazier's picture would be right next to the written definition. Frazier is a bulldog, and he embodies everything, from a mentality standpoint, that Bruce Weber has looked for and tried to instill in the players on the Fighting Illini roster. Frazier plays a tough-nosed brand of defense, and there is no one on the basketball court that he will back down from, both qualities that have endeared him to not only the Illinois coaching staff, but many of the Illini fans as well.

On the Hoops (and Premium) Fan Forums, it seems like there is no player discussed with as many disparate opinions of what he brings to the court as Frazier. Some praise his toughness, his defense, and his assist to turnover ratio. Others point out his shooting percentage (in all facets of shooting from free throws to three pointers) and his driving to the lane without knowledge of what he is going to do, nor doing anything with the basketball, while pointing out that he is not the point guard Illinois fans are used to seeing in the Orange and Blue. Mention Chester Frazier, either positively, or with a critique, and a long debate (probably seeded from something entirely not to do with Chester himself) will begin on the message boards. But isn't that what makes these boards fun?

Heading into the 2006-2007 season, Chester Frazier will most likely be battling fellow sophomore Trent Meacham for the starting point guard position. Frazier has the added benefit of already playing one full season for the Illini, while Meacham played his freshman year at Dayton, and had to sit out last season as a transfer. Both players have had one year with the Illini coaches in practice, but Frazier has the added experience of playing through the grinds of a full season of Big Ten Basketball, which probably give him the early edge to becoming Illinois' starting point guard in 2006-2007.

There were times last season, specifically the Ohio State game in Columbus, where Chester's energy was the only thing that was going right for the Fighting Illini on that specific day. Frazier had the luxury of playing behind All American Dee Brown last season, and only manning the point when he was on the bench, or for the brief moments that Bruce Weber slid brown to the shooting guard during games. This year, that luxury will not be there, and Frazier, along with Meacham, is going to have to carry the torch of stellar Illini point guards into the future.

As a point guard, Chester Frazier had the assist to turnover ratio (2.4:1) that a head coach wants to see, but he also had some troublesome habits that a coach doesn't want to see. While Frazier was not afraid to take the ball into the middle, he seemed lost as to what to do with it when he got in the paint. There were numerous times last season that Frazier would get past his man, get into the lane, and then dribble right out through it, or make an errant pass, because he could not make the right decision with the basketball. The ability to make the right decision on the fly in this situation is something that the Illini will need from Frazier this season.

He has the first step, now he just needs to combine that with the year of extra experience and convert it into offense for his teammates and himself. Speaking of Chester Frazier's offense, there is one place where it is severely lacking, his shooting. Yes, he will not repeat the same poor shooting performance that he had last season, but it is unlikely that his outside shot will be something that opposing teams will have to game plan against. The most disappointing shooting numbers from Chester was not his three point or field goal percentage, but his free throw percentage. As a point guard, he cannot be a liability on the free throw line, like he was last season when he shot fifty percent from the charity stripe. Dee Brown will not be controlling the ball at the end of the game, so Illinois' new point guard needs to be able to knock down pressure free throws.

As his assist-to-turnover ratio shows, when Chester makes decisions with the basketball he normally ends up making the right decision to keep the offense moving. While he does not turn the ball over often, like all freshmen, he can still improve on his decision making. Just looking at the number of possessions that Chet had a direct influence on it final outcome (he either shot the ball, took a free throw, made an assist, or committed a turnover) almost 40% of those possessions resulted in an assist from Frazier. Why was this? He was way too timid with his offense. He only took forty-eight shots, while he had fifty assists.

Some will tell you that the point guard does not need to be a scorer, but he needs to be a threat to shoot the ball. Over the course of the entire 2005-2006 season, Frazier posed no real threat against the defense to make a move with the basketball, and it severely limited his offensive game, definitely including his ability to create shots for his teammates. For comparison sake on how limited Frazier was, the Big Ten's leaders in assists (Dee Brown and Jeff Horner) both took over twice the number of shots as they had assists. This overall balance in their offensive game improved their playmaking ability, it is this type of balance that Chester needs to develop heading into this season.

Defensively, there is no one on the court Chester will not try to guard. If Bruce Weber for some reason told him to go on the court and defend Greg Oden, he would not even hesitate to try his best up against the seven-footer. Luckily for Chet, Bruce Weber is not crazy, and he will not be guarding physical inside specimens like Oden, he will be guarding opposing perimeter players. Last year Chester showed that his defense can be a catalyst for an Illini comeback, and he showed he will play defense even the entire team isn't.

The one flaw in his defense is that he does not have as good of an off the ball awareness as one would like from a point guard. He does not really anticipate passes well, shown by his extremely low amount of steals (only seven steals all season, and just 0.77 per 40 minutes played). Improving his ability to read the passing lanes on defense should allow Chester to get more steals without taking chances on the ball (something you don't want to see), and thus allow Illinois to get easy points in transition (something that the Illini offense will definitely need next season).

The one thing no Illinois fans disagree about Chester Frazier is he is not one to back down from anything. Well, heading into the 2006-2007 season, he will definitely have a position battle on his hands with Trent Meacham that will flush itself out over the pre-season practices, and probably much of the non-conference schedule. The question of who will come out ahead remains to be seen, but it will be an interesting competition to watch from the stands, and one that will definitely bring about a lot of second guessing on the Hoops Fan Forum.

Strengths Weaknesses
Defense Decision Making with the Ball
Hustle & Heart Shooting
Quick First Step Offensive Timidity

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