As Chester Frazier made his return to Illinois, he looked out of the window of his car and saw Merry Ann’s Diner, a Champaign-Ubrana staple. For Frazier that meant one thing, he’s home.
“Coming back, it just made so much sense for me. I love this place,” Frazier said. “I have an affinity for this place. Even as a coach, I would watch Illinois basketball just as a fan and be a proud alum.”
Frazier has been brought on board by Brad Underwood as an assistant coach for the Fighting Illini — the team he played on from 2005-09 and appeared in three NCAA Tournaments with. For a program that just finished its best season in 16 years in disappointing fashion — and then lost its best player to the NBA (Ayo Dosunmu) and two key assistant coaches (Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman) to Kentucky — keeping the program at the level its currently at was a huge priority.
After losing two huge recruiters, another goal ofUnderwood’s staff is to sell Illinois to potential recruits. Somebody who understands the Illini but can also sell the #EverydayGuy mentality and what it means to play in Champaign seemed like a prerequisite for the job.
“I can recruit anywhere, everywhere. I have relationships in Baltimore, Florida, Texas,” Frazier said. “I feel like I can recruit anywhere.”
That’s what made Frazier a no brainer, because in his four seasons he was a captain for two — and played an unselfish, but energetic brand of basketball, ranking seventh in program history in career assists (484) and ninth in career assists per game (3.9).
“You’re going to feel my energy everyday man, I mean nothing’s changed since I was a player,” he said. “I’m going to go hard, I’m going to compete, these guys are going to feel that energy, that edge, that toughness.”
The 35-year old comes back to Illinois after coaching with former Illini head coach Bruce Weber at Kansas State and a stint as associate head coach at Virginia Tech. Those previous jobs give Frazier seven more NCAA tournament appearances, to pair with his three as a player.
As for Underwood, he has been continually receiving calls and texts about the other open assistant position but has no timeline yet to fill it. In the meantime, he is fired up about Frazier joining his staff.
“Hey, damn, the half court handshake with Eric Gordon, are you shittin’ me?” Underwood said. “I mean he blasted that dude, you don’t think that didn’t fit with me? We’re rockin’ right there now.”