Michael Frazier II Healthy Again, Back Playing at a High Level and Back With USA Basketball
After an injury sidelined him for most of 2017, Frazier is back playing at a high level in the G League.
Not too long ago, Michael Frazier II was at his lowest point as a basketball player. A torn quad injury had caused him to fail a physical for a professional basketball club in Germany, leading into a lengthy rehab assignment. There was a time when he wondered if his pro career was at risk.
“There was a period there when I was really down, and I was really unsure and uncertain if I was able to recover from the injury and really able to get back to a level where I could compete at the professional level,” Frazier said. “I couldn’t even explain that feeling at the age of 22, 23 years old, if I would ever play the game I love again, that was a pretty rough time.”
Yet fast-forward to today, and Frazier is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 16.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a starter for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA G League. His stellar play resulted in his selection to the USA Basketball team set to face Argentina and Panama in FIBA World Cup Qualifying this month.
Frazier was ecstatic when he received word that he will suit up for Jeff Van Gundy’s squad that already has qualified the USA for this year’s FIBA World Cup.
“I was with my sister at the time, and my thoughts were, immediately, I was very excited, very honored,” he said. “(USA Men’s National Team Director) Sean Ford called me and basically let me know that I was selected, so I jumped right on it.”
Frazier’s second stint in the G League is even more remarkable given how his first one went. The sharpshooter, who helped the University of Florida reach the Final Four in 2014 in a sensational 36-3 campaign, went undrafted after coming out after his junior year in 2015. He then played sporadically for three different clubs in the then-NBA Development League, managing 6.7 points per game while struggling to find his range.
A season in Italy followed, before the devastating injury in 2017 put him at a career crossroads with his longest spell out of the game. The Tampa native returned to the familiar surroundings of Gainesville, where he credited the coaching and training staffs along with his family and girlfriend for keeping his spirits up when he had serious doubts.
“I’m very grateful to the training staff and the coaching staff there, because without them, none of this would be possible, because they were the ones who basically nursed me back to health and allowed me to use their facilities to work out with their guys once I got cleared to get back on the court,” Frazier said.
Frazier, who was cleared for contact in June, is now just a touch under his stated goal of shooting 40.0 percent on 3-pointers, with numerous scoring binges along the way. He scored a career-high 43 in one contest and just last weekend drained 7-of-11 triples in a thrilling one-point win over the South Bay Lakers.
This appearance with USA Basketball is even sweeter, because it marks the second time Frazier has represented his country. He was part of the USA U19 World Cup Team in 2013 that went 9-0 and took home the gold medal in Prague, Czech Republic.
“(I have) nothing but great memories with that group of guys,” Frazier said. “They’ve all gone on, I think for the most part, to have pretty successful careers so far. I just remember killing everybody that we played (the USA won its nine games by an average margin of victory of 39.6 points a game), which is always fun, to dominate and win the gold. That is what we went there to do, and we accomplished that goal.”
One of his memories from that trip was how Frazier enjoyed the company of some familiar faces. The head coach was his college coach, Billy Donovan, who is now leading the Oklahoma City Thunder. Florida assistant Mark Daigneault was on the staff as well, while the athletic trainer was also a Gator in Dave Werner.
“Just getting to be able to be around those guys extra time outside of the university atmosphere was pretty cool,” Frazier said. “It was a great experience, and I’m very happy and excited to do it again.”
Now he will suit up for a staff led by Van Gundy with assistants Mark Fox and John Thompson III. Frazier is eager to soak in what he can from Van Gundy, the former Houston Rockets and New York Knicks coach.
“The last time he was coaching (in the NBA), I was pretty young so I’m not too familiar with his coaching style,” he said. “From what I’ve heard from the guys that are close with him is that it will be a good opportunity for me to play for him, and I’m very excited to learn as much as I can in a short period of time.”
Frazier, who also credited the Rio Grande organization and coach Joseph Blair for his success, has seen his perspective on time change since going almost a year without basketball. Yet, that pales in comparison to the six years since he last wore a USA Basketball jersey, an honor that he really can’t believe that he has earned yet again.
“This is beyond my wildest dreams,” he said. “I never imagined that I would play this well at this level.”