Little man J.J. Frazier coming up big for Bulldogs

Georgia’s littlest man has been coming up big for the Bulldogs.

Freshman J.J. Frazier, generously listed at 5-foot-10, 150 pounds on Georgia’s basketball roster, has stood tall the second half of the season. Averaging barely nine minutes per game of playing time overall in the regular season, the point guard from Glennville averaged 16 minutes in the Bulldogs’ past five contests.

And he hasn’t been just filling time. With starter Charles Mann in foul trouble, Frazier came off the bench to play 29 minutes and give Georgia 11 critical points in a 75-73 win over Ole Miss in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.

“He just had the normal freshman growing pains,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I think he still probably has some more of those in front of him. But he’s made great progress and has played very well of late.”

And it hasn’t just been Frazier. Along with forward Nemanja Djurisic and guard Juwan Parker, Georgia’s bench has out-scored opponents’ reserves in the past four games — including 23-4 over Kentucky on Saturday — and most of the games this season.

The Bulldogs typically play 10 to 11 players per game. That kind of depth is one reason No. 2-seed Georgia (19-13) has won seven of its past 10 games and will be favored Wednesday night against Vermont (22-9) in the first round of the NIT. The game tips off at 8 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum, where the Bulldogs are 14-2 this season.

“My job is to maintain the lead if we have it or if we’re down, to not get any further down or get the lead or tie the game,” said Frazier, who averaged 26.5 points his senior season at Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici. “As the backup point guard, my job is to manage the game. It’s not to do too much or not to do too little. It’s to keep it balanced and keep it steady so that when Charles comes back in the game, he’s fresh, and as a team we can make a push to get a lead or to build on our lead.”

Frazier has done even more than that. He emerged from obscurity by playing 17 minutes and the final 5:13 of regulation after Mann got into foul trouble in a win over Arkansas in January. Of late, he has emerged as a lethal scoring option.

Frazier is apt to launch a 3-point attempt from anywhere and just as apt to make it. He’s 5-of-10 from beyond the arc in the Bulldogs’ past three games.

“The games before, I wasn’t making shots and wasn’t making the plays I’m used to making,” Frazier said. “Coming into the tournament, I just wanted to make the plays I normally make every day in practice. I wanted to take those shots and hit those shots. And that’s what I did.”

The starters that Frazier and friends relieve are loving it.

“We’ve relied on J.J. and those guys all season,” said Mann, who leads the Bulldogs in points, assists and minutes played. “Not nearly as much in the beginning of the season, but a lot of our players’ confidence picked up toward the middle and end of the season, and we needed it.”