Call me a “homer”, say we’re putting too much pressure on a kid, but you can’t deny the excellence that we saw from Trent Frazier in his first year. He wasn’t supposed to be “the guy” this year, but he hopped in the driver’s seat, took the keys, and showed a glimmer of hope for a program that’s gone through relatively dark times recently.
My favorite “screw it, Trent’s gonna do Trent things” moment was back on Jan. 11, a home game against the Iowa Hawkeyes that I was in attendance for. The game looked like it was going to be a blowout. Illinois led by 20 in the first half, knocked in nine first-half treys, scored its most points in a half all year AND maintained a 13-point lead coming out to start the second half.
But just like Chris Paul said, “shit went bad real quick.”
Iowa scored the first 10 points of the second half, and even took the lead, 83-82. The Hawkeyes would go on to win the game in overtime, marking their second-largest comeback in school history, but not before Frazier could hit one of the most impressive buzzer-beaters in recent memory.
One-legged runner from behind the arc to tie it?! That’s a bad man. The three capped off what was a career-high 27-point performance, which included 7-of-11 from deep.
We got to see these types of moments sprinkled throughout Frazier’s rookie season. Mean crossovers, off-balance floaters through the lane that always seemed to fall in, violent step-back threes, or another favorite of mine, the 2:00 mark of this clip.
A 14-18 record is hardly ideal, but a season or two of growing pains are to be expected. The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores, or they transfer away and get replaced by six new guys. Either way is cool with me, but we should all be excited to see how Frazier and Nichols lead this team in the 2018-19 season.
It’s another highly anticipated recruiting class for head coach Brad Underwood. It’s his second year with the program, the second year for guys to get acclimated to his system, and the leaders on the team now have some experience under their belt. It won’t be another pretty season, and I wouldn’t guarantee an NCAA Tourney appearance, but there’s reason to believe next year should be a step up.
One thing is for sure though: We have yet to see the last of the ridiculous Trent Frazier baskets.