Michael Frazier got his moment on the ladder as well cutting down the nets as the Gators celebrated post game only their fourth outright SEC regular season championship. But knows they have much more they want to accomplish.
“It was a great feeling,” he said talking to the Florida media on Thursday. “All the hard work that we’ve done just paid off up to this point. We have many more goals to seize. We still have a season ahead of us, so it was just one of many.
Frazier was particularly outspoken and yelling with his teammates during the celebration.
“I was just telling everybody way to go, taking our seniors out on top,” he said. “Finishing with an SEC outright championship was the way we wanted them to finish.
They can celebrate more when the season is totally done, right now there is more business to tend to.
“Last night was last night,” Frazier said of the celebration. “Today is a new day. We’ve got to get better today in practice. We’ve got to look at Kentucky. They’re a better team than when we first played them, more mature. This is going be tough game and we’ve got to be ready.”
The Gators take on the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday and the team that is synonymous with basketball in the SEC. They know how important wining this game is and despite a blowout win against Vanderbilt to clinch the title, there are always things to work on. Billy Donovan makes sure they are always aware of that.
“Yes. Coach D is always on us hard,” Frazier said of the Gators winningest basketball coach of all time. “Even though we won the game and we were SEC champions, he told us that we couldn’t be satisfied, so today we’re going to come in and try to get better. Even when we do have games like that, there are always things that he points out to us that we can get better at because he wants us to be great and he expects us to be great. Today we’re going to come in and look at those things on film and try to get better.”
For Frazier, he can finally put the injury he suffered three games ago behind him. A collision on the court caused a concussion and he was forced to sit out the rest of one game and miss the loss at Tennessee as well. It hurt the team a lot who was already down one player in forward Will Yeguete and then forward Casey Prather was also hurt and had to leave during the Tennessee match up.
Now, Frazier says all the base line testing is done and he is 100% after not feeling 100% in the Alabama game played last weekend where he had limited minutes.
“It was my second game back and I felt I was more into the flow of things,” he said of the Vanderbilt game. “My first game back, I kind of felt out of it. Even though I only missed one game, I didn’t feel like myself. But last night, I think I played how I usually play and I felt like myself.
Donovan also felt like Frazier was a little more aware and less defensive in the Vanderbilt game compared to the Alabama game a few days earlier.
“Yeah, I think he played well,” Donovan said. “I think the two days of practice going into the Vanderbilt game really helped him. The week before that with him having to sit out the Tennessee game, and then getting ready to play Alabama not really being in the position to practice that week. His timing and confidence, everything, weren’t really there. I thought the two days served him well going into the game against Vanderbilt. He had two good days of practice and got back to himself a little bit.”
The Gators are healthy now and it is a matter of getting everyone on the same page during the game and getting a feel for one another on the court.
“Obviously when you have your full team back you’re going to be stronger, so I think that helped us a lot having everybody back and getting into the rhythm of practice and just working again and getting everybody together again,” Frazier said.
They have seen the importance of having a full allotment of players ready to play in any game.
“Very important,” he responded to how he feels about the bench play of this team. “We’re going to need our bench to step up going late into the tournament. We’re going to need those legs for our starters to be able to come in and produce.
“We’ve just got to keep working in practice and striving to get better. That’s the main key: striving to get better every day and continuing to grow as a team.”
The match up with Kentucky is big, but this year it is more of a personal thing than just the BIG game on the schedule that Kentucky usually reminds us of. Going into tournament play on a strong note is huge for this team and so winning Saturday is more about that.
“It’s very important,” he said of getting the win and playing well in Lexington. “We want to go out on top. We want to finish the regular season on top going into the tournament off a win. It’s very important to prepare today in practice. Kentucky is a different team than when we first played them. They’re more mature. They’re obviously without Nerlens (Noel), but they’re still going to be a tough team going into Rupp Arena. It’s going to be a tough game.
As a freshman, Frazier has never been to Rupp arena, but he hears enough about it to know that it is something different.
“A great basketball atmosphere… that’s what my teammates keep telling me, what the coaches keep telling all of us freshmen,” he said of the 24,000 seat arena. “It’s going to be a great, great experience for us. Hopefully we can go in there and get a win.”