Tim Frazier couldn’t contain his smile while he reflected on his arrival to Penn State in 2009.
He remembered being a skinny, young kid — the thought that prompted the grin — and spoke about the player and person he has become five years later. Frazier discussed adversity, the ups and downs of his Nittany Lion career and the accolades that came with his individual success, all shaping influences during his journey in State College.
“Getting here my first day, I never thought I’d be where I am today,” Frazier said. “My goal coming into college was to try to get better each year, and I feel like I’ve done that. Especially throughout all the accolades I’ve received, the wins and the losses that I’ve taken, I feel like I’ve grown better more not just as a player, but as a leader and a teammate and as a man.”
Frazier will play his final home game for Penn State (14-14, 5-10) against No. 14 Wisconsin (23-5, 10-5) on Sunday at noon at the Bryce Jordan Center. Frazier will leave the program as the all-time assists leader, entering Sunday’s game with 619 for his career. He is averaging 16 points and leads the Big Ten with 5.7 assists per game this season.
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The Badgers are riding a six-game winning streak and sit in third place in the conference. Wisconsin has four players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Sam Dekker (13.6) and Frank Kaminsky (13.2).
The Lions are coming off a 65-63 win over No. 22 Ohio State on Thursday, when the program honored Frazier on senior night. Frazier got off to a shaky start, but he scored 16 points to help Penn State finish a season sweep of the Buckeyes.
“It’s senior night,” coach Patrick Chambers said after the win. “You got your family there. You got one game left in this building. You’ve been here five years. You’ve invested time and energy. He puts so much into this program. You can’t blame the kid for being jacked up and feeling the way he felt. I was happy to see us get a win for him.”
Frazier got the crowd going in the first half Thursday after coming up with a steal and sending a pass to D.J. Newbill for a right-handed breakaway dunk.
The backcourt duo shared an embrace before the game and again after the upset was complete.
Before the team’s final two home games, Newbill said it would be tough to see Frazier go.
“It’s been an honor to be his teammate on and off the court,” Newbill said. “He’s like a brother to me, he’ll always be a brother to me and in these last couple games, I know it’s going to be emotional for him. It’s going to be emotional for me just thinking that our run is coming to an end.”
Penn State forward Ross Travis said Frazier’s focus every day at practice makes his teammates better.
Travis said he’s proud to see how much Frazier has achieved. But he also knows it’s not time to say goodbye to the Lions guard yet.
“I don’t want to make it sound like this is the end because it’s not the end yet, we still got some games left,” Travis said. “But it’s been a tremendous journey with him, just learning from him and being able to practice with him and watch him grow as a player throughout the years that I’ve been here.”
Frazier’s been through a lot in his career.
He helped Penn State reach the NCAA tournament in 2011, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2012 and sat out last season after he ruptured his left Achilles tendon in the Lions’ fourth game.
The losing seasons and injury were tough, but they’ve prepared him for his final year. Though his career is coming to a close, he still has time left to determine the ending.
“That’s the game of basketball, the ups and downs,” Frazier said. “Teams make runs and get runs made on them. You just continue to get better. That’s all we want to do is just be the best team we can be at the end of the year. Our shot isn’t up.”
Notes: D.J. Newbill is three points away from reaching 1,000 points in his two years at Penn State. Newbill scored 293 points in his freshman season at Southern Mississippi. Sunday’s game will feature a fundraiser for Team Ream, created for former Lions football player Brandon Ream, who died in November after a two-year battle with cancer. Wisconsin’s Ben Brust leads the conference in free throw shooting at 89.4 percent. Teammate Josh Gasser is second at 87.5 percent. Gasser is also the top 3-point shooter in the Big Ten, shooting 46.3 percent (38-for-82) from beyond the arc. Brust leads the Badgers with 67 3-pointers.