Never will I forget the day when Illini Nation became upset when now-starting point guard Chester Frazier committed to Illinois. Why you ask? Well here's a reminder - most people don't have the luxury of seeing players play, so it's natural to see what other schools offered them or where they rank nationally. Frazier is from Baltimore, Maryland and wasn't ranked anywhere close to the top 100. He was listed here at Scout.com as a three-star recruit, check out the list of schools Frazier had to choose from: Binghamton, College of Charleston, Drexel, Fordham, La Salle, Miami (OH) and Siena. Please understand, in no way are those terrible schools. My point is they aren't Big Ten, ACC or Big Twelve schools. So what has Frazier done with his opportunity? Yesterday's game against Florida A&M, he logged forty minutes scored13 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and only one turnover. I think he's surprising himself. "Who knew Calvin Brock could come out and play like this? Who knew Trent would play like this? Who knew I'd play like this? We solidified ourselves as threats." To answer your question - the coaching staff knew Chester could play. While at a game in Champaign I approached assistant Coach Tracy Webster about Frazier and he said, "Chester can play; he's going to shock people. He's a coachable kid that plays the game the way we like here at Illinois."
Trent Meacham, another three-star athlete, is a local kid that liked Illinois coming out of high school but signed to play for the Dayton Flyers. Meacham is a 6-2, 185 pound guard that can fill it up. Weber knew coming out of high school Meacham could shoot the ball, but at the time he really wasn't on the radar for Illinois. Now he appears to be one of the team's best shooters along with senior Rich McBride and sophomore Jamar Smith. Yesterday Meacham, regardless of the team it was against, scored a career high 24 points and tied a school record for three pointers made in a game with eight.
This is not a slam towards last year's team nor its players but this year, so far to date, this team moves and shares the basketball a lot better. With the success of sophomore Calvin Brock and now Frazier and Meacham, they look very comfortable on the court together. Last year at times, when the shot clock was winding down, players stood and waited for Dee Brown to take the shot. Now they're making that extra pass the way they did in 2005.
Sure things will toughen up with the likes of Maryland, Arizona and Missouri, but the fact is they are gaining confidence more and more each time out. The real problem is Weber trying to find minutes for these players when Brian Randle, Rich McBride and Jamar Smith come back. Not an easy task but one coaches love to have.
Discuss here at Illiniboard.com which player has surprised you most Meacham, Frazier or Brock.