The State of Jason Fraser

<I>InsideCarolina</i>'s Jeff Goodman takes an extensive look at what Tar Heel target Jason Fraser is thinking at this stage in his recruitment. Fraser made an official visit this past weekend to Chapel Hill.

The fans are loyal. The program has far greater tradition than the others. There will be much more exposure than at St. John's, Villanova and Louisville. But UNC is almost too perfect for Jason Fraser.

Fraser admits that his visit to Chapel Hill couldn't have gone any better, but the New York native doesn't want to join a program where he'll be just another player – or one that already has everything in place.

"Truthfully, North Carolina is the best school for me to go to if I want to win, meet great people and make connections," said the 6-10 Amityville (N.Y.) center. "It's a no-brainer.

"But I'm a different kid. I'm known for working hard and being different. I like to do what people tell me I can't do I need adversity and always like to be the first one to do something."

Fraser is considered the top interior defensive player in the nation and has dramatically improved his offensive game over the summer. He has always maintained that Villanova first-year coach Jay Wright will be hard to resist when it comes down to crunch-time, but St. John's has shot up the charts in recent weeks and currently occupies the top spot.

"St. John's is leading – even though the visit with them didn't go so well," he said. "The Villanova visit went great and I loved it. Everything seemed so great and I wanted to commit, but my mind was fighting my heart. My heart was saying St. John's. It's just a feeling I can't explain."

Fraser has basically knocked Louisville off his list, and plans on making a decision shortly after his final official visit to Villanova on Oct. 28.

He hung out with recruit Raymond Felton and Tar Heel freshman Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel and Melvin Scott for the majority of the weekend while in Chapel Hill.

He spent time watching Matt Doherty run practices and eating with recruits and players, but the highlight was the crowd reaction when he and the other recruits paraded to their seats for Midnight Madness.

"They really love their players and it's not phony at all," added Fraser, who eventually cracked a smile during the "We Want Fraser" chants. "They are so loyal. It was crazy. They had 10,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs. Imagine that. And they are such nice people."

But the bottom line is that Fraser has always wanted to play at Madison Square Garden. He is as diehard a New York Knicks fan as there is. He wants to patrol the same lane that Patrick Ewing dominated for most of his career.

"If you do good in New York, you can look like a king," said Fraser. "You have to produce and that motivates me.

"I can really see myself down at Carolina, but the whole thing is that I'd be just another player. I feel like it's a great school and it's probably the best school for me, but I just need that adversity. UNC is the best thing for me as far as winning, education and connections, but is that what I really want?"

It doesn't seem like it.

Fraser will likely make a decision within a few days after visiting Villanova at the end of the month. He plans to scrap his final official visit to St. John's because he has already been to the campus on numerous occasions.

"There's no point in me going," said Fraser. "There's nothing they really need to do to change my mind about them. But I want to go to Villanova to make sure there will be no regrets."

Fraser has had different people pulling him in opposite directions throughout the process. According to Fraser, his former Amityville teammate, Tristan Smith, and his high school coach, Jack Agostino, want him to go to St. John's. Quiet and steady point guard Elijah Ingram recently committed to Mike Jarvis' program and Fraser has been an avid supporter of the St. Anthony's (N.J.) floor leader.

Agostino is extremely close with Fraser, and received three calls from the senior while he was on his trip to Carolina.

"He's one of those kids you root for no matter what because he's such a good kid," Agostino said on Sunday night. "He called me at 2 a.m. on the night of Midnight Madness and woke me up. He said how great it was and how it was something he's never experienced before. … With St. John's, I think that the Tristan factor is very important."

His buddy Curtis Sumpter has been talking up Villanova and Jay Wright, but the forward doesn't think Fraser will end up a Wildcat – even though he told this writer about six months ago that he wanted to follow Sumpter wherever he landed.

"Everyone assumes I have an influence over him (Jason)," said Sumpter. "But Jason's going to make a decision for himself. … I would guess he's going to pick St. John's. New York City is the mecca of basketball and he loves the Garden. Tristan and his high school coach want him to go there. His coach has been around them (the staff) for a long time and he knows them really well."

However, there's no question that Fraser is closest to his mother. He has no problem admitting he's a Mama's Boy – and mama's favorite resides in Chapel Hill.

"After the visit, she's in love with Carolina," said Fraser. "She told me, `I love you so much and I want the best for you. And I think Carolina's the best for you'."

But ultimately, Fraser intends to choose the school where he feels comfortable in his heart. That's no knock on Chapel Hill.

"There were four or five kids with my name on their back and the crowd started chanting `We Want Fraser'," Fraser said. "I'm surprised more kids don't commit on their visit. Like I said, it's a great place.

"I'm just a different kind of person from everyone else."

Other Fraser quotables:

On Jackie Manuel: "He's so funny without even trying to be funny. He doesn't even have to say anything. He's got those wide eyes and just makes you laugh."

On Doherty: "I saw him in practice and they are very intense. He's not really nuts like people told me. He's just tough."

On the rooms at the Carolina Inn: "We each had our own rooms. They had very high beds, Carolina-colored pillows and a banner hanging. The bed even had a Carolina quilt. It was real nice."

On Neil Fingleton: "He's a great guy and is much better than what people think. He looked real good. I don't know who's been working with him, but he's real strong and was backing Kris Lang down and was real aggressive in blocking shots."

On Kris Lang: "He's got a nice face-up game, had some nice head and side fakes and looked good from the foul line."

On Jawad Williams: He's so smooth and effortless on the court, like LeBron James. He's real good for someone his size."


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