Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- During his senior year at Montverde (Fla.) Academy, Michael Frazier III played alongside teammates who went on to sign with the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, West Virginia, Clemson and Ole Miss. That team played in the national prep championship game.
Frazier’s first collegiate team, the 2012-13 Florida Gators, won 29 games and went to the Elite Eight.
So the UF shooting guard knows a little something about talent.
But even Frazier shakes his head when asked about the skills of the U19 USA Basketball squad -- led by UF coach Billy Donovan -- that won the gold medal at the FIBA World Championships earlier this month at Prague, Czech Republic.
“The best of the best for that age group,” Frazier said after a workout this week. “My whole experience with those guys was just breathtaking.”
In an age group that had won the FIBA gold just twice since 1987, the USA went 9-0 in overall tournament play with an average victory margin of 39.5 points.
The Americans played two closely contested games against a highly regarded Serbia team, but pulled away in the second half of both, winning 71-62 in pool play, then 82-68 in the gold medal game.
“It was just such an honor to put on that USA jersey and play with this group of guys,” Frazier said.
Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell and incoming Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon were among the stars of the team.
During the three-plus weeks of training and practicing for the tournament, Frazier often found himself matched up against Smart, who is already being projected as a top-five pick in what figures to be a loaded NBA lottery next year.
“Loved it,” Frazier said.
The challenge of daily, top-tier competition was something the Gators sophomore embraced even before he went to USA tryouts in June. The experience, regardless if he made the team, was going to make Frazier a better a player.
How could it not?
“I think probably the tryouts, the practices every day, double sessions, playing against those quality of players all definitely helped him and probably given him more confidence,” Donovan said. “I’ve seen this happen.”
Any new-found confidence may not have shown up in Frazier’s statistical line.
Florida’s best 3-point shooter during his rookie college season, Frazier shot 46.8 percent from distance -- including 53.6 in league play -- on his way to being named to the Southeastern Conference’s All-Freshman team. At the Worlds, where the international 3-point line is about 16 inches deeper, Frazier hit just 15 of 51 from the arc (29.4 percent), taking by far the most 3s of any team member.
A mention of those struggles draws only a shrug.
“I didn’t go there to score,” he said. “I went to grow as a player and win a gold medal, so both my goals were met.”
Donovan told his USA squad before leaving the country to check their egos at the door. While they may have been superstars on their respective campuses, Donovan and his staff made it clear about the roles on the team.
Everybody was going to contribute somehow.
And while Frazier may not have shot the ball as well as he liked, he grabbed better than three rebounds per game and willed himself to improve his defense.
“I walked away happy and excited about what we achieved,” he said.
And also looking forward to using the his bonus basketball experience -- “Basically, an extra season playing for Coach D, is how I look at it,” Frazier called it -- as a building block to his sophomore year.
Frazier has been praised by strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene for the way he’s leaned out his frame and added muscle.
The summer could make a world of difference.
“Playing more basketball at such a high level will only help me,” he said. “Now, it’s up to me to just keep on working.”