Trent Frazier: «I am capable being a hero in the endings»

Trent Frazier: «I am capable being a hero in the endings»

Zenit is fighting for the Top 3 spot and trying to justify the title of one of the main season favorites. In the first round, the team played without several leaders, including star guard Thomas Heurtel. In the French playmaker absence, Trent Frazier took on a lot of responsibility for the offensive game.

The 25-year-old American has handled his new responsibilities well. Zenit won 8 games out of 10 with Frazier in the starting lineup. Trent became the team’s leading scorer and also set a career-high in assists (14 against Enisey).

In an exclusive interview to the VTB United League, Trent talked about his role on the team, competition in the League, his readiness to participate in the All-Star Game Three-Point Contest and his idols in the NBA and Euroleague.

– Zenit had quite a good month – 8 wins with 2 losses. Why did you manage to improve your game after a difficult season start?

– At the beginning of the season we had problems in offense. But when we had injuries, we united and improved. And that goes for everyone on the team. Our vets started to take more responsibility, the young guys energized and motivated everyone to give their best at practice. Each of us began to do much more for the team success. In my opinion, that’s why our wins are the result of established relationships within the team and teamwork.

– At the same time, you played most of your games without Thomas Heurtel.

– Yes, without Thomas, without Adrien Moermann… now Sergey Karasev is out. We really lost a lot of experienced players, but we are successfully coping with it due to our teamwork.

– Did Thomas’ injury become a reason for you to take additional responsibility for the team’s wins?

– Thomas with his court vision, basketball IQ and ability to create moments for his teammates is a truly elite point guard. So his injury definitely affected our offense. In a situation like that, we all started to take more responsibility, including myself.

– During this period you became the key playmaker of the team. Was this role familiar to you or was it a new experience in your career?

– No, I played a lot as a guard – in college, in Serbia. So this role wasn’t something new for me, I just went out on the court and did what I was used to do.
I tried to announce combinations loudly, use my voice, run the offense and help my teammates get in the right places. I tried to lead the team and be a leader.

– Is it difficult to fulfill the role of the key playmaker in Xavi Pascual’s system?

– No, I really like his system. It creates a lot of opportunities for creative guards. For me, Tomas Heurtel, Timofey Gerasimov. We have a lot of offensive freedom. Xavi has done a great job of distributing the shooting between the bigmen and the backcourt. I feel confident in such offensive system.

– Do you analyze your stats?

– Yes, I try to keep an eye on the number of fumbles, the ratio of fumbles to assists and the efficiency rating. But in my opinion, these stats are much more important than just shooting and scoring.

– Speaking of assists. Over the last 10 games your average assists have increased 3 times. What do you think is the reason for that?

– I practiced a lot after training, practicing different game situations. I’ve become much better at passing with the weak hand, hook passes. It all gives confidence and allows me to feel comfortable in offense, so my numbers are growing.

– You set a career-high in assists in 1 game against Enisey – 14. What is the significance of such an achievement for you?

– For me it’s another step, which shows that I’m capable of playing at this level, to consistently make more than 10 assists per game. That’s what I’m striving for. So this one is an important moment for me.

– Let’s recap the game against CSKA. It was a very dramatic game, overtime and an upset loss for Zenit. How did the mood within the team change after this game?

– I don’t think this game changed anything globally. Before every road game with CSKA we understand that we’re in for a 40-minute battle. And we know how to play in such games.
That’s why the loss didn’t affect our mood and the atmosphere in the locker room. We continue to prepare for every next game, stay focused and get better every day.

– What teams do you think can compete for the League title this season?

– Of course, they are the teams from the Top 4 of last season. I would also name Enisey, which gives the leaders a lot of problems in every game. And in general I think that a team’s place in the standings doesn’t always reflect its real level, everyone is capable of putting up a fight in a particular game and series.
At the same time, it’s hard to fight for the lead – every team has a special attitude. So we just stay focused and strive to be the best team in the League.

– How do you assess the level of competition in the League after the first half of the season?

– The teams have improved the chemistry, found their rhythm, so the level of competition has grown and will continue to rise. There are almost no stunishing results, so in the second half of the season the games will be even more intense.

– Let’s go back to the game against CSKA. You played at a very high level, making an important three-pointer, taking the game into overtime. Do you like making those crucial shots in the endings?

– Of course, I think that scoring a shot in the ending is the goal of any player. So I just try to fulfill the coach’s assignments. In the end of that game I was in the right place at the right time. In general, it is very important to have a good attitude, to try to win in every game situation, not to be afraid to take responsibility in the endings.

– Can you call yourself a player who can decide the game results in the endings?

– Yes, definitely, I believe that I am capable of being a hero in the endings. So far I haven’t had many chances to prove it, but I’m sure when I get the chance, I’ll be ready.

– Right now you are the team leader in points. How do you rate your chances of going to the All-Star Game?

– I’m playing my first full season for Zenit. I hope I can get this opportunity, but if it doesn’t happen, I won’t be upset. I’ll just continue to work every day and prepare for the rest of the season

– Would you like to participate in a Three-Point Contest?

– Sure, that would be pretty fun. Taking a little break and spending time at the All-Star Game and socializing with players from other teams is a great way to relax and have a good time.

– Who would you like to see as an opponent in this competition?

– I would like to compete against … it’s hard to say, there are a lot of good shooters in the League. I would probably want to compete against Kyle Kuric because I want to prove to him that I shoot better (laughs). I think it would be fun to compete against someone from Zenit – we have a lot of great shooters.

– What skills do you think an ideal guard should have?

– I think a guard should be able to control the offensive pace and the game for all 40 minutes. Of course, shooting and passing skills are also important, but the ability to control their teammates is what separates elite frontcourt players from others.

– Do you follow any NBA players? Maybe you learned some of their tricks from some of the stars?

– I try to follow the guards and learn the best from them. In the NBA it’s Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving. In Euroleague I follow Mike James and Shane Larkin. Our game is built in a similar way and the same skills are important to us: speed, passing, shooting off the dribble.

Aleksandr Galkin