J.J. Frazier has built his Georgia legacy on proving his head coach right.
When Frazier signed his National Letter of Intent with Georgia four years ago, head coach Mark Fox received pieces of hate mail about this decision. Frazier was small at 5-foot-10 and a lightly recruited player out of Faith Baptist Christian in Glennville. Not many programs were on him, which, for whatever reason, drew the ire of some fans.
Fox recalled the letters being along the lines of, "Why are you signing this guy?" Fox said those kind of letters go "right in the garbage anyway."
What Frazier has done in the four years since has been nothing short of phenomenal.
It all began during Frazier’s junior season of high school, however. Fox attended a game between Frazier’s Faith Baptist Christian squad and Covenant Christian. As Fox recalled, Covenant Christian was the bigger and more experienced group of the two schools and built a big lead.
That’s when Frazier took over.
"I think he had 26 or 28 in the second half and brought them back from down 14 or 12, I think, to win," Fox said. "I knew that night I was going to offer him."
That high school game sure set the stage for some of Frazier’s most memorable moments in a Georgia uniform. And of late, Frazier has led the charge for the Bulldogs as they fight for an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Since star forward Yante Maten sustained a Grade 2 MCL sprain to his right knee against Kentucky three games ago, Frazier has posted big games in consecutive victories. Frazier scored 28 points in a 60-55 win over Alabama. He followed that game with a 29-point performance against LSU in an 82-80 win, which saw Frazier hit two free throws with 1.6 seconds left that would ultimately give his team the win.
Even after Maten went down in Georgia’s loss to Kentucky, Frazier poured in 36 points to give his team a chance all the way through. Frazier will have one final opportunity to put on a show at Stegeman Coliseum Wednesday in Georgia’s final home game of the regular season against Auburn.
"The things he’s done the last three games, especially without Yante, he took over," senior forward Kennty Paul Geno said. "That’s why he’s a special kid. He has a big heart. He wants to win. We’re right there behind him. He gathered the troops together and led us without Yante. That’s what kind of kid he is."
While Geno recalled how small Frazier was when he first met him four years ago, he remembered being told how great of a basketball talent he was. It didn’t take long until the first few practices to see Frazier display it on the court.
"He plays a lot bigger than 5-10," Geno said.
Frazier’s 29-point game against LSU came while experiencing flu-like symptoms. Geno said Frazier didn’t appear well before last Friday’s shootaround but figured it might have been due to leftover nervous energy from the previous night’s win over Alabama.
Then Frazier woke up Saturday and needed to see a doctor at an urgent care clinic. Even so, by the time Frazier arrived to Stegeman Coliseum, he "had that look in his eye" that made Geno and his other teammates realize something special might take place.
"He definitely looked determined. It reminds me of the Jordan ‘Flu Game,’" senior forward Houston Kessler said. "He didn’t let the adversity of the game hold him back. He decided we were going to win that ball game."
No one, not even Fox, expected Frazier to go on to have the statistical impact he has had at Georgia. And obviously those fans who wrote Fox four years ago didn’t see this coming.
Frazier has put together a spectacular career at Georgia. And much of it has been based on proving that Fox’s decision to extend him a scholarship was the correct one.
"That’s my guy. He took a chance on me," Frazier said. "Me proving him right and everybody else wrong is more so for the fact I didn’t want him to feel he wasted a scholarship on me, especially a two-star coming out of South Georgia, who was 120 points coming out of high school. That gave me a lot of motivation. I’m thankful for the opportunity he’s given me."