Sports

Florida's Michael Frazier II always gives it his best shot

ARLINGTON, Texas — Tipoff at Mississippi was set for 11 a.m.

It was not early enough for Florida shooting guard Michael Frazier II.

While his teammates were sleeping before the Southeastern Conference game in February, Frazier was on the court at 6:45 a.m. Shot after shot, he searched for his rhythm.

It is a never-ending pursuit for Frazier, and one reason he is the best three-point shooter in the Final Four. Florida plays Connecticut on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.

"We have to get back and locate and identify where Michael Frazier is at all times," Connecticut Coach Kevin Ollie said Thursday.

Frazier, who has a permanent green light to shoot from long range, has an unwavering routine. On game days, the Gators' sophomore takes a few hundred jumpers hours before tipoff and makes another 100 before player introductions.

"Ever since I was in high school, I always liked to get into the gym early and just get a nice lather, get a good warmup just so I'm in rhythm," Frazier said. "And if I feel my shot is off a little bit I can kind of go in there and fine-tune it."

More often than not, the 6-foot-4 Frazier finds his range. He is shooting 44.8% from beyond the arc, with a school-record 117 three-pointers.

Frazier's fourth of five three-pointers during the round of 16 game against UCLA broke the Florida mark set by Lee Humphrey, who made 113 during the Gators' national championship runs in 2006 and 2007.

"Humphrey and Frazier know their shots better than I know their shots," Florida Coach Billy Donovan said. "They know why they missed, why they make, what they need to do, they know their routine. I would say those two guys in particular are unbelievable in the amount of personal investment they make in terms of getting up shots every day.

"Those guys just have an incredible will to go in there and work and work and work and work."

Frazier, 20, cannot remember another way. When he was younger, Frazier and his father, Michael Frazier Sr., would go to the gym as many as three times a day.

Michael Frazier Sr. was a pretty good shooter himself and played for a traveling Army team during some of his 13 years in the service. A first lieutenant who left after Operation Desert Storm to become a minister, the elder Frazier could teach his son fundamentals and instill discipline.

But Michael Frazier II, one of six kids, had a gift and an inner drive.

While his classmates at Tampa Plant High went to Friday night football games, Frazier hit the gym.

Unlike his Gators teammates, Frazier doesn't tweet or use Facebook and Instagram.

"That's a distraction," his father said. "He's not a tweeting kind of kid."

Frazier's single-mindedness allowed him to play with older kids during AAU, average 30 points in high school and earn a scholarship to Florida. To raise his game another level, Frazier enrolled for his senior season at Montverde Academy, joining a roster full of Division I talent, including current Gators freshman Kasey Hill.

"He wasn't the highest-ranked kid," Montverde Coach Kevin Boyle recalled of Frazier. "I think that was one of the things that pushed him to prove that he was good as anybody out there, that he could go to a major school and play. I think a lot of people weren't so sure his game was well-rounded enough."

Frazier's proving ground was an empty gym, the echo of the bouncing ball his companion.

He led Montverde in scoring and rebounding and became the best shooter Boyle said he has coached, along with Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving.

"I've never seen anybody, some people close, but no one more focused and determined to be successful and willing to put the time in," Boyle said of Frazier.

Frazier arrived at Florida unheralded, but his three-point shooting was pivotal for a team that reached the final eight last season. This season, Frazier, starting with four seniors, can change a game more quickly than any Gator.

Frazier made his team's first four shots, including three three-pointers, to help Florida to an early lead in a 61-60 win over Kentucky in the SEC tournament title game. The list of Frazier scoring flourishes this season is a long one, yet he also is prone to lapses in confidence.

"My coaches and teammates have done a great job of just trying to drill it into my head: Don't let the last miss affect you. Have a short memory," Frazier said. "Which I know as a shooter is supposed to be important. But for some odd reason, I can't seem to get that through my head."

Connecticut was able to get in Frazier's head a bit during the Huskies' 65-64 win on Dec. 2. In 39 minutes, he had seven points and shot just one of three from three-point range.

Since then, Frazier has taken thousands of shots, shed gallons of sweat and devoted hundreds of hours to his craft. The routine never changes, and the Gators haven't lost since.

The green light will be flashing once again Saturday. While Frazier's shots may not fall, he will be ready.

"He understood that from an early age," Michael Frazier Sr. said. "There's a price you have to pay for success."

egthompson@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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