The Little Giant

James J.  “J.J”  Frazier  is a short man in a tall man’s sport.  This week, Frazier, a 5',10" shooting guard from South Georgia leads his Georgia Bulldogs into the SEC Tournament. While the Dogs will play from the middle of the pack, it won’t be because of a lack of effort from Frazier, who is currently the conference’s second shortest player, but stands high  among the greatest players in Georgia Bulldog’s basketball history as the university’s  seventh leading scorer (1599 - the highest mark in 25 years,)  fifth all time in assists (420,) tenth in steals(161,) and in the top 10 in many categories including the fifth spot in 3-point shots made.  Frazier is the only player in Georgia history to score more than 1500 points, steal more than 150 balls, and create more than 400 assists in a career at Georgia.

You may ask, J.J. Frazier?  A piece of our past?

Well, according to Loran Smith, who knows almost everything there is to know about sports at the University of  Georgia, J.J. Frazier, who grew up in Glenville, Georgia, was actually born right here in Dublin, Georgia.

While J.J. was in high school at Faith Baptist Christian School, he was considered the top point guard in the Georgia Association of Christian Schools.  J.J. led his team to the state championship in his senior year, when he averaged 26.5 points per game.

Frazier saw limited action in his freshman year.  His greatest highlight was a 15-point, team- high performance in the second  round of the NIT tournament in 2014.

Moving into a starting role midway through his sophomore season in 2014-15, Frazier began to emerge as an exceptional player, despite the doubters who discredited his being on the team in the first place.  Even with limited playing time, Frazier finished in the Top 100 in the nation in free throw percentage and fifth in the SEC.  

Frazier’s 37-point performance against Mississippi State placed him in a ninth  place tie with Dominique Wilkins for the highest single game scoring mark in Georgia basketball history and his first SEC Player of the Week award.

J.J. Frazier erased all doubts about his abilities in his junior season when he was named to the second team All-SEC Team and the All-SEC tournament team.  He led the Bulldogs in scoring (16.9 ppg), assists (4.4 apg), 3-point percentage (.386) and free throw percentage (.824).  Despite his short stature, he was third on his team in rebounding.  In the SEC ranks, Frazier was listed among the top-10 in a league-high eight categories – No. 5 in assist-to- ratio, No. 5 in steals, No. 7 in scoring, No. 7 in assists, No. 7 in free throw percentage, No. 7 in 3-point percentage, No. 8 in 3-pointers per game and No. 10 in minutes.

When the Bulldogs high scorer forward Yante Manten went down for the rest of the regular season on February 18 of this season, Frazier poured it on and took over the leadership of the team scoring one field goal short of 30 points per game in his last five games.   With a great big exclamation point at the end of his last regular season, Frazier has accumulated an 18.7 points per game average, third in the SEC, 1.9 steals per game, also third in the conference, fifth in free throw percentage 87.5% (third in the number made with 161,)  and thirteenth in field goal percentage. Frazier was selected earlier this week to the first team All SEC team.  He has a shot at being named the  MVP of the Southeastern Conference, an award which is not always given to the top player on the conference’s championship team as was the case in 2013 when UGA’s Kentavius-Caldwell Pope won the award and most notably Pete Maravich, of the L.S.U. Tigers, who finished 8th in the SEC in 1969.

"J.J. just loves to compete. He refuses to let us lose," commented Bulldogs coach Mark Fox, who went on to add,  "He is a phenomenal competitor. J.J. is a great leader in battle, and I can't say enough things about him. He has just been an outstanding player for us," said the Bulldog head coach, who received hate mail when he signed J.J. for a scholarship.

“That’s my guy. He took a chance on me,” Frazier said. “Me proving him right and everybody else wrong is more so for the fact I didn’t want him to feel he wasted a scholarship on me, especially a two-star coming out of South Georgia, who was 120 points coming out of high school. That gave me a lot of motivation. I’m thankful for the opportunity he’s given me.”  Frazier told Jason Butt of the Tribune News Service last month.

Georgia’s senior sports writer Loran Smith,  wrote of Frazier, “J.J. plays two feet taller than he actually is, and what greater glory could have come to Ole Georgia if his team could have persevered? Enough, enough. Life must go on, but let’s rejoice that this remarkable young man came our way. He has been the responsible student-athlete on pace to graduate, which means he is academically diligent, but to his credit, honesty compels him to admit his class goals are perfunctory. He’d rather be shooting baskets, which he does as often as possible, year-round. The playgrounds in Tattnall County were a joy to behold in his youth. As were the high school gyms. Then segueing into the courts in the competitive Southeastern Conference – life became a serendipitous experience he has never taken for granted.”

“His intense focus as he works to make plays to give his team an advantage. Always unselfish, he has been known to dish off a pass with unintended sleight-of-hand action that surprised unsuspecting teammates. When he is hot, he touches our inner soul. We want Georgia basketball to succeed. We love it with J.J. being the centerpiece. He is David slaying Goliath, his left-handed arch of a three-point basket among the most beautiful individual performances I have ever seen at Georgia – Herschel bolting for 70 yards, Belue to Scott – J.J.’s nonpareil accomplishments will remain indelible in our minds. We can’t let go. We shouldn’t,” Smith proclaimed.

Let the doubters slither away.

          For on this day, J.J. Frazier begins his last SEC tournament and possibly his last collegiate game of his career. It is a day which ends four years of outstanding play at Georgia, a day that many doubters never thought would never happen.

At the beginning of this day and for many years to come, this little giant will always stand tall near the top of the pyramid in the hundreds of Georgia Bulldog basketball players over the last century.

Post script: This article was published in the Dublin Courier Herald on March 9, 2017.  On March 10, 2017, J.J. Frazier played his in his last collegiate game in a loss to Kentucky.

Photos@ Macon Telegraph, DawgNation, Bulldogs 247, USA Today.