CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — To say Brad Underwood hit it off with Chester Frazier wouldn’t do it enough justice. All the Illinois head coach had to do was pull up the tape. The bump between Indiana’s Eric Gordon and Frazier still lives in Illini lore, after the Hoosier native decommitted from the Orange and Blue to side with his home state. Frazier gave him a nudge during starting lineups.
“Hey, damn, the half court handshake with Eric Gordon, are you shittin’ me?” Underwood said during a Zoom press conference on Tuesday. “I mean he blasted that dude, you don’t think that didn’t fit with me? We’re rockin’ right there now.”
Underwood was sold.
Frazier was already in. The gritty, hard-nosed, defensive-minded point guard says he’s bringing that same edge he had on the court, to the Illinois bench.
“I’m going to go hard, I’m going to compete, these guys are going to feel that energy, that edge, that toughness and it’s a requirement to play the game that way and I hope these guys feed off that and take on that personality,” Frazier said.
It’s the same traits Underwood has built his team on the past four seasons. And with his program at a crossroads after losing assistants Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman to Kentucky, Underwood was sold on what Frazier brings to the table.
“There’s nobody better than him in my eyes in terms of his success, his ability to recruit, his ability to coach, to motivate young people,” Underwood said. “Chester’s passion and obviously playing here and having the success he did was exactly what we were looking for.”
At just 35, Frazier already has a decade of coaching experience. The Baltimore native got his start with former Illini head coach Bruce Weber, first as a grad assistant at Illinois, then broke into the business as a full time assistant at Kansas State in 2012. He’s recruited across the country and says he expects that to continue in Champaign.
“Florida, Maryland, Utah, Connecticut, Arizona, shoot man, I’ve signed kids from all over,” Frazier said about his recruiting map. “Like I said, at Kansas State, I learned how to hunt. I had to go find players that fit, that we’re talented enough to compete at that level. Anywhere up and down the east coast I’m good, I have a lot of relationships. I can make a phone call anywhere and locate a good player.”
But even more than recruiting, it’s a conference title that still fueling Frazier.
“I tell people this all the time, I didn’t win a Big Ten Championship when I was here and that haunts me man,” he said. “I know I sacrificed a lot to play at the University of Illinois, my body, I played hard every night. I have two Big 12 championships, an Elite 8 run at Kansas State but nothing would make me happier than winning a Big Ten championship at Illinois.”