There are certain players whose shooting touch and form are so refined, even the statistician begins to pencil in the points when they begin to take a shot.
Florida has had the luxury of a few such players, including 6-foot-10 forward Erik Murphy, who currently leads the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage.
But if the Gators were hosting an NBA-style 3-point shooting competition, my money would be on freshman Michael Frazier II.
Frazier, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday after hitting 6 of 7 3-point attempts on Saturday, is what I believe they call “money in the bank.”
“He’s like a mini Ray Allen,” former Montverde Academy teammate and Florida signee Kasey Hill said of Frazier in an ESPN article last year.
The same article revealed that perhaps not ironically, Allen — the NBA’s all-time 3-point leader — is also Frazier’s favorite player. From 2007 up until this season, Allen had donned the No. 20 jersey, the same number which Frazier currently sports.
Allen is about as close to automatic is at it gets. Every time Allen steps behind the arc to shoot a three, the ball’s eventual fall through the nylon net is all but a certainty. Frazier has already begun to display an Allen-like feel for shooting, which always comes down to mechanics.
On Monday, Billy Donovan spoke at length about what makes a good shooter.
“There is very, very little stray from their mechanics,” Donovan said. “Those guys that can cut down their errors, and it is the same shot each and every time, for the most part end up being really good shooters.”
Donovan cited two players on his team who fit the bill of “good shooters” according to his criteria. One was Murphy. The other was Frazier.
With so much proven talent returning to Gainesville this season, Donovan knew for the most part, his incoming crop of freshmen could wait patiently in the background, contributing sparingly while absorbing all they could in practice.
Since the start of the season, Frazier has been the lone freshman in the mix during every game. While he’s still learning on the job, Donovan was complimentary of the work Frazier has done thus far.
“He’s getting there,” Donovan said. “Sometimes, he doesn’t quite see things developing like some of the older guys do. … Sometimes he gets hurt, but he’s getting better. What’s great about Mike is he’s really coachable. He allows me to get on him.
“A lot of younger guys, it might be the first time they’ve been coached really hard or someone has gotten after them, they don’t respond well to that. I think for Mike, he wants that.”
Perhaps an explanation for Frazier’s advanced feel for being coached hard comes from his basketball pedigree. Frazier spent his senior high school season at the aforementioned Montverde Academy, a program which in recent years has become a basketball factory in the mold of the famed Oak Hill Academy.
Forget about taking an old-fashioned yellow school bus to your neighboring rival for a game, Montverde is boarding planes at Orlando International Airport to reach their opponents which are spread out across the country. The competition and the coaching is at a level more suitable for college, which in turn readies players like Frazier for what awaits them when they step on campus.
Many people have their own opinions on the fruitfulness of such schools. Some question if it’s too much too soon, or if it has taken the purity out of high school athletics. But sentimental reasons aside, it’s hard to argue with the results, and Donovan agrees.
“I think (playing at Montverde) definitely helped him,” Donovan said. “I think playing against good players, I think playing in a very, very competitive environment and I think no question that experience helped him.
“I think Mike would tell you that it really, really helped him. He played for a great high school (in Plant High in Tampa, Fla.) before he left there and a great coach and certainly a great level of talent.”
While Frazier’s experience at Montverde may have proven to be a boost to him, Donovan said that no matter the background, each freshman has his own learning curve.
“It all varies,” Donovan said. “I would say Scottie Wilbekin from day one was really pretty advanced defensively and he had really, really good feet. … That’s a big factor, too. There are certain guys who have a real good read and understanding of the game and maybe they aren’t the quickest guys but they can see things.
“Dan Werner was a lot like that for us. (Writers note: Dan Werner? Really? If you say so Billy, I believe you.) People would look at him and say well he’s not a great defender; well, he was a phenomenal defender because he was always in the right spot, because he could see things developing before they happened.”
Frazier has proven whether it’s a natural basketball IQ, or one built up through a year at an elite basketball institution, that he is an impact player at Florida already.
His 18 points against Auburn last Saturday weren’t a “welcome to the team” moment. Frazier had long since made his presence known to the SEC.
Wherever the Gators go this year, Frazier will continue to be a cog in Florida’s lineup. With Frazier on the floor, teams have found it increasingly difficult to key on Florida’s other scorers, leaving someone open to put up points on seemingly every possession.
The best part for Frazier and the scary part for the SEC, is this is only his first year on campus. As Donovan said, once a player gains experiences, he can begin to view the game differently.
An older and wiser Frazier will be a scary sight next season, as will be the addition of that other Montverde player in Hill.
For now though, Frazier is perfectly fine with his place as a freshman role player.
He plays it well.