ORLANDO– If you were to attend a Florida basketball practice, you’d immediately notice one of the best shooters in the country. Michael Frazier II is deadly from beyond the three-point line, and that makes him a marked man in the eyes of opponents.
His 11 three pointers in one game are a UF record; his six games with five or more three pointers made are a school record as well. His stroke is pure, silky smooth and if you watched the Gators shootaround, you would rarely see him miss.
But when Frazier steps to the free throw line in practice you’d notice something peculiar –his eyes are closed. To develop muscle memory Mark Daigneault, (assistant to head coach Billy Donavan) challenged him to shoot blindly while he was mired in a stretch of poor play.
“It just taught me to really trust my stroke because I can’t see whether the ball’s going in or not,” Frazier said. “So, it’s really just about trusting my stroke. I think he did it to try and get me to get out of one of my slumps that I was in. And he challenged me to do that, and just doing it every day just kinda helped me get outta that shooting slump that I was in.”
He likes his role on the team: the spot-up dagger shooter. It provides spacing for his teammates, creating driving lanes in the thick of the defense, he also offers backbreaking transition threes that can kill an opponents momentum or give the Gators a much needed shot in the arm. The respect commanded from opponents, he says is his biggest weapon and the fear instills was on full display in Florida’s second round matchup against Albany.
Frazier was only 1-4 from three-point range in the game, at times it seemed like he wasn’t even on the court, that’s because the Great Danes made a concerted effort not to let Frazier beat them. They had code words for him: “Ray Allen” and “Jesus Shuttlesworth” –the fictional character from the 1998 movie “He Got Game.” They were able to do that because they refused to rotate a defender off of him to help an interior defender with a Florida player driving to the hoop. The lack of help defense contributed to Florida’s 38 points in the paint, but for the Great Danes it was better than the alternative: giving Frazier space to knock down an open three.
Albany head coach Will Brown said Frazier “might be the best shooter in all of college basketball,” and for the Gators that makes him an important asset. Not just as a threat to opponents, but also as a resource for teammates in need of advice on their own shooting strokes, he doesn’t wait for them to come to him though.
“I try and seek them out,” Frazier said. “I’ve gone through a couple shooting slumps in my years. I just try to tell them to stay confident and just try and block everything else out. Just shoot a good rep every time and don’t worry about the ball going in or not. Because if you had control over that you would never miss.”
Frazier tries his best to get his teammates in the same mentality he has, a shooting confidence that knows no bounds. If he’s open, he’s taking the shot whether he’s in a slump or not, to borrow the famous line from Wayne Gretzky, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Now that the NCAA tournament has begun, not all his shootarounds are private thanks to the policy to have practices open to the public at each tournament site. Florida practices off site before coming to the venue to have a lax shootaround the day before their game. It could be assumed that a player might take this lightly, but Frazier does not.
“Whenever I step on the court and shoot the ball,” he said. “I wanna work on my craft, never want to waste time because you know that’s time I could be using to get better and you don’t get that time back. Whether people are watching or not I try and work on my game.”
If Florida beats Pittsburgh Friday, and you plan to attend one of Florida’s open shootarounds in Memphis or North Texas –should the Gators advance to the Final Four– watch Frazier work on his stroke, with the understanding that at times, he might not be watching anything.