Frazier may only play a few minutes
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Injured guard Chester Frazier is a long shot to play in Illinois' NCAA Tournament opener against Western Kentucky.
If the senior defensive workhorse does play on Thursday, it'll only be a little -- which coach Bruce Weber said he'd take against the Hilltoppers and their talented guards.
"I've said from the beginning that if we can have him even just a little bit, he's such a good energy guy and a motivator," Weber said Monday.
Frazier injured his right hand in practice last week and missed the Big Ten tournament last weekend after surgery Thursday. He and the Illini (24-9) have declined to say whether it's broken.
Frazier, who has played through a number of injuries in his four seasons at Illinois, told reporters Sunday after the Illini were chosen as a fifth seed that the decision to play will be his.
"I'll just have to be able to take a little pain. I'm ready for that -- I've been playing through pain my whole career here," he said, resting his heavily wrapped hand on his knee. "I feel like this team needs me."
Western Kentucky (24-8), a 12 seed, relies heavily on its guards. Weber says the Illini could use Frazier's perimeter defense.
Whether Frazier plays or not, Weber said he'll lean heavily on his other starting guard, inconsistent sophomore Demetri McCamey, and a bench that was seldom tested this season.
McCamey was the leading Illinois scorer this season with 11.5 points a game. But he disappeared in many games, didn't play as much defense as Weber would like and spent much of the season in the coach's dog house.
"If you want to be a star or considered one of the top players you've got to do it all the time," Weber said Monday. "That's what I told him in practice just a little while ago."
Bench player Calvin Brock started at the Big Ten tournament for Frazier and figures to play a major role again Thursday and, if Illinois wins, beyond.
Sophomore guard Jeff Jordan, a tough defensive guard who Weber has grown to trust more this season running the offense, is another recipient of the minutes that would otherwise be Frazier's.
And Jordan, son of Michael Jordan, may be the player on the Illini roster most like the tough-minded, defense-oriented Frazier.
"I thought he was very positive in both games" of the Big Ten tournament, Weber said. "He gave us a great energy boost, defensive lift."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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