Frazier’s 3-point shooting is key to Florida’s title run

04/04/2014 4:12 PM

04/04/2014 5:06 PM

Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II is Florida’s resident 3-point shooter.

But through four NCAA Tournament games, he has been somewhat off the mark, making 10 of 26 shots (38.4 percent) from behind the arc during the Gators’ run to the Final Four.

He and the Gators know that will have to change if Florida hopes to beat Connecticut in Saturday’s semifinals at AT&T Stadium and qualify for Monday’s NCAA championship game.

Frazier, a somewhat unheralded recruit coming out of high school, has been the Gators’ zone buster and stretch-the-defense scorer all season.

His school-record 117 3-pointers (hitting 44.8 percent) this season are a key part of Florida’s 30-game win streak and its status as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Frazier is poised to deliver big shots again Saturday.

“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder,” Frazier said. “But that’s just because I want to be the best basketball player I can possibly be. I know what I’m capable of. I’ve always known what I’m capable of. Whatever happens, happens. I’m just happy to be in this position.”

With a reputation as one of Florida’s hardest workers, there is no doubt Frazier will do whatever he can to have his shooting touch for the Final Four.

He has been known to go to the gym early on game day, putting up as many 400 shots by himself while his teammates are sleeping.

Florida coach Billy Donovan has no worries and believes Frazier’s stroke will be there when needed this weekend.

“There’s going to be some nights he shoots it at a unbelievable high level, and there’s to be some nights where maybe he doesn’t shoot it as well,” he said. “But he has a great ability to shoot the basketball. Our team, myself, we feel very confident when he shoots the ball.”

Donovan ranks Frazier among the purest shooters he’s ever coached. And that list includes former Florida guard Lee Humphrey, who made an NCAA career record 47 3-pointers in leading the Gators to back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007.

“Humphrey and Frazier know their shots better than I know their shots,” Donovan said. “They know why they missed, why they make, what they need to do. They know their routine. Those guys just have an incredible will to go in there and work and work and work and work. Would I like Michael Frazier to knock down five, six, seven 3s a game? That would be great for us.

“But sometimes the defense has something to do with that. Sometimes that is the greatest sign of respect for a player is when they try to take you out of the game. Some teams tried to do that to Michael, but we’ve still been able to move on and advance by doing different things.”

Frazier credits a routine that dates to middle school and is rooted in growing up with a preacher father from a military background. He says his father instilled a work ethic into him and his entire family at an early age.

Frazier said his teammates have done a good job keeping him focused and confident when his shot hasn’t gone in.

In the NCAA Tournament, Frazier has gone 1 of 4 against Albany, 2 of 9 against Pittsburgh, 5 of 8 against UCLA and 2 of 5 against Dayton. He was 10 of 15 in the SEC tournament.

He has the green light to shoot at any time.

Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie certainly considers Frazier as one to stop.

“He’s an outstanding weapon,” Ollie said. “He creates so many spacing challenges for us on the defensive end where we have to guard him.

“... We’re going to have to make sure we communicate and talk at a [high level], so we can make sure he gets covered. Then also in transition we have to get back and locate and identify where Michael Frazier is at all times.”

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