This isn’t new for J.J. Frazier.
Five years ago, Frazier was a little-known point guard from Glennville who didn’t receive much recruiting attention. His lone Power 5 conference offer came from Georgia. During the past four years, Frazier made it a point to prove the skeptics wrong, to which he did by ending his career as an All-SEC first-teamer.
With the NBA draft coming Thursday, Frazier’s back in that familiar position. At 5-foot-10, the same height question that plagued his recruiting has resurfaced in the NBA, despite the fact he repeatedly took over games while scoring in multiple ways.
Frazier averaged 18.8 points per game, a career-best, during his senior season. When forward Yante Maten sustained an ankle injury late this past season, Frazier stepped up and averaged 29.5 points in his absence – including a 36-point outburst against Kentucky on Feb. 18 when Maten went down in the first two minutes.
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Frazier showed he could compete in a major conference in college. He now wants to prove why he is worthy of an NBA shot.
“It’s something that I feel like nobody really thought I could possibly do five or six years ago, especially coming out of high school,” Frazier said. “I’ve had to defy odds my whole life. This is another thing I’ve been enjoying, trying to prove other people wrong, as well.”
Scoring has never been an issue for Frazier and NBA teams realize that. He hopped around the country — and Canada — working out for the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Minneosta Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors.
At the Portsmouth Invitational and at a pre-combine event at IMG Academy, Frazier also met with representatives from the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic.
The biggest concern has been Frazier’s height in relation to the defensive end of the court. Frazier said he has had to show teams he can defend in the manner they want to see out of their guards.
“Pickup full court, just make it tough,” Frazier said. “I think the way we played at Georgia was to pack it in — be tough, be physical, pack it in, make them shoot 3s. I think people didn’t really see that I can pick up full court and guard different ways. That’s something I have to show, and I think I’ve been doing a good job of it.”
Frazier’s agent, Zachary Charles of 3pt Sports Management, said he has received mostly positive feedback from Frazier’s workouts. But it all keeps coming back to height. On NBA rosters this past season, only four players were listed below 6 feet — Isaiah Thomas (Boston Celtics), Kay Felder (Cleveland Cavaliers), Tyler Ulis (Phoenix Suns) and Ty Lawson (Sacramento Kings).
Of those four, Thomas has emerged as a star. In 2011, the Kings selected Thomas with the last overall pick in the NBA draft. Charles sees a similarity, saying teams could be passing on the next Thomas by holding Frazier’s height against him.
“If he were 6-1, he’d probably have worked out for all 30 teams,” Charles said.
Things have momentarily settled down for Frazier with the draft on deck. He returned to Athens recently and has put in some extra basketball work in during the past few days. He plans to watch the draft back home Thursday with his mother, Sonya Frazier, in Glennville.
It will just be the two of them, with Frazier noting how his mom will be more disappointed than he if he goes undrafted. But Frazier pointed out he could still sign with an NBA team if he is not selected. On top of that, he will have the opportunity to play overseas if NBA teams pass on him this go-around.
But much like his mindset was five years ago, Frazier once again has something to prove. It’s a mentality that has been long engrained throughout his career to this point.
“I think that’s who I am by nature," Frazier said. “It’s just one of those things that will always stick with me and be with me no matter what I do. I’m that guy. My biggest thing is I’m going to continue to be myself, play like myself, carry myself the way I’ve been carrying myself the last four years at UGA. That right there got me in the door to work out for NBA teams so I don’t want to change that.”