COLLEGE PARK, MD. –
Minutes after his Tim Thomas Playaz team had notched a double-digit win over FACE Systems to advance to the Charlie Weber Invitational semifinals on Sunday, Jason Fraser was exhausted.
"I'm out of shape right now," he said, as he tried to catch his breath for the postgame interview, having not played organized hoops in over a month.
Fraser was matched up with Travis Garrison, a 6-8 forward who has blossomed this summer into one of the Class of 2002's most talented frontcourt prospects.
"I didn't play as well as I wanted to," Fraser said.
The matchup got off to an exciting start, as Fraser swatted a Garrison jumper, only to have his short shot stuffed by Garrison a short while later.
Garrison has developed an accurate mid-range jumpshot that gave Fraser trouble. The face-up jumpers accounted for most of Garrison's 18 first-half points. Fraser, not nearly as skilled on the offensive end as Garrison, but a better defender, totaled five first-half blocks (not to mention all the shots that were altered by his presence).
However, he was able to record some points, throwing down two big two-handed dunks and knocking down a three-pointer.
"I've been going into the gym with my coach and working on my jumpshot," he said. "I'm working on shooting from the baseline, the free throw line and the open three."
On the first possession of the second half, they both came out aggressive, pushing and shoving until Fraser was whistled with his third foul and sat out the rest of the quarter.
Standing at 6-9, Fraser looks skinny from afar, but he's got a wiry strong build and plays a very physical game.
"I've been going hard in the weight room (since the end of the AAU season)," he said, and it shows, as his arms are noticeably thicker. He added that he now has a maximum bench press of 265.
But that doesn't mean he's been able to put on some pounds, as he's now below his once listed 209 pounds.
"I can't gain weight," he said laughing. "I'm like 203, 204. When I step on the scales, it doesn't go up."
Neither Fraser nor Garrison appeared in game shape, and both were thoroughly winded in the second half – and therefore much less of a factor. Fraser finished the game with 14 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks. Garrison had 26 points.
Fraser arrived late to the tournament, joining the team on Saturday evening, fresh off of an in-home visit with Carolina head coach Matt Doherty.
"It went great," he said emphatically of the visit. "I'm sure everyone knows there's been some bad things said about coach (Doherty), but he was being natural, and from what I saw of him being natural, he's not the type of person some people have made him out to be.
"I just really got to see the personal side of him, getting to sit down and get to know him. I'm not quick to judge someone. Every coach has his good and bad side."
And what had some people been telling Fraser about Doherty?
"Just that he overworks his players," Fraser said. "If you shoot terrible and get whipped and embarrassed on national TV, running you to death is not going to help you improve your jump shot. Stamina has nothing to do with it – that's my philosophy on coaching. But he's not like that from what I could see."
The in-home visit also gave Fraser the opportunity to ask Doherty any questions he had about the Tar Heel program.
"I know teams want me for my rebounding and shotblocking, but I wanted to know if he has more in store for me because I want to score while in college," he said. "I'm trying to show everyone that I can score in double-digits. I asked him about that and he explained everything to me. I asked him about how I like to throw the outlet pass and start the break, and he said he'd allowed me to do more of that and work on my handle a little bit more."
Fraser said he has an in-home visit with St. John's on Wednesday, while his official visit to the Red Storm campus needs to be rescheduled. He takes his official to Chapel Hill on the weekend of Oct. 13 (Midnight with Matt). As for Villanova, the in-home hasn't been set up, but he said he might go to see head coach Jay Wright on campus instead.
And then there's Louisville.
"My uncle's been talking and talking in my ear telling me how (head coach Rick) Pitino can develop me as a player, and I know Taquan Dean's there, so I was like ‘yeah, I'll (visit) there,'" Fraser said.
Dean is one of four star point guards that each team Fraser is considering possesses, the others being St. John's Elijah Ingram (Fraser calls his presence at St. John's "a plus"), Tar Heel Raymond Felton ("a complete point guard") and Villanova's Allen Ray (who "proved himself this summer"). Fraser was unable to cite a preference for which one he'd most like to play with.
After his trip to Carolina, Fraser will have completed his in-home and official visit itinerary – so will a decision be made shortly thereafter?
"Possibly," he said. An announcement could come by the end of October, but Fraser clearly was unsure as to his timetable.
Meanwhile, the talk in recruiting circles suggests Villanova or St. John's as the most likely to receive a commitment from the coveted center, but Fraser begs to differ.
"The truth is I don't know where I want to go," he said. "Honestly, I'm a very blunt person, and if I knew where I wanted to go, I would have committed and just gotten it over with."
Fraser is feeling pressure from all angles. His family, coach and close friends are pulling him in different directions, but he knows only one person is going to make the final decision.
"This decision is for me," he said.
For more on Fraser, check out IC's Jason Fraser Profile