Thanks to the football season, we role into anther year of basketball with more scrutiny on the NCAA’s quest to catch and punish those who break their rules. Good luck with that in the seedy underworld of college basketball recruiting. Take for instance Robert Frazier, currently Carmelo Anthony’s manager and the person responsible for Josh Selby’s suspension to start this season. Is he just a local Baltimore man trying to help kids out or a money-grubbing agent preying on future stars? You decide.
Oddly enough Frazier’s name rarely popped up prior to and during the 2002-03 season when Syracuse’s Carmelo Anthony was tearing up the Big East and leading the Orange to a national title.
But while Melo grew up in West Baltimore, Frazier and his brothers acted as a protective shield for Anthony, making sure he didn’t fall with the wrong group and waste his talents as a basketball player. Frazier’s relationship with Anthony then grew to a point that he’s now Anthony’s manager.
Fast forward a few years and we have a similar situation in Baltimore with Frazier and another top freshman recruit, Kansas’ Josh Selby.
According to various stories, Selby’s mother, Maeshon Witherspoon, was directed to Frazier seven years ago when Josh was starting to gain attention from would-be agents and managers. According to his mother, she knew Frazier from grade school and even though they lost contact after that, she got back in touch with him.
That’s when Frazier, who had already helped one super star recruit in his life, became a mentor for Selby. Frazier even housed coaching visits at his own place for Selby to meet the parade of coaches begging for his services as the No. 1 recruit in the nation.
Said Witherspoon: “Mr. Frazier is a great guy. He’s like my brother. We don’t just talk about basketball, but life. He is not just an adviser, he is family. If not for Mr. Frazier, Josh would not be in college. The amount of calls I was getting from agents with my financial situation (as a single mother working different jobs) … everybody suffering from the recession … the offers from Europe … Mr. Frazier advised us and said overseas is not worth it. Look at the great experience Carmelo Anthony had (one year at Syracuse). Roles change in life. When I started getting bombarded with calls, his role changed.”
Said Frazier himself: “It’s a new hustle in Baltimore. People think they can take a kid out for a meal or buy him something, but that’s not what I am about. I’ve had relationships with Carmelo and Josh since they’ve been young.”
The fact that Frazier acted as Selby’s advisor and was hosting in-home visits was no secret. The visits were chronicled in a New York Times profile on Selby.
In that same profile, the Times writes about an incident when Selby ran into basketball’s biggest power broker, William Wesley – a.k.a. “Worldwide Wes” – during a player’s camp. Wesley was put off by Selby, who apparently was rude to Wesley, and also told Witherspoon that Selby needed to work on his speed.
Witherspoon told the Times: “When he said his name, my face froze. I was like, ‘You’re the infamous Wes. You’re the guy who everyone told me to stay away from.’ I had read all those pages about him being powerful in GQ.”
It’s clear in the minds of Selby and his mother that Frazier and Wesley are two different types of people but the NCAA isn’t so sure. It eventually began an investigation looking into the relationship between Selby and Frazier. When it finished, the NCAA ruled Selby ineligible for nine games, saying that through Frazier, Selby had received $4,607.58 worth of benefits. These benefits included clothes, transportation, meals and lodging for Selby and his family. As part of his punishment, Selby must also donate that exact amount to charity.
This is where it gets tricky. If all those services were provided because Frazier was a family friend, they would be legal. If they were made because Selby was a basketball star, then it’s an NCAA infraction. The NCAA deemed it was the latter.
The NCAA, however, stopped short of saying that Selby could no longer have contact with Frazier. Despite the small trouble Selby had to go through because of his close relationship with Frazier, he’s a figure that isn’t going away soon. Said Witherspoon following the NCAA’s ruling: “Robert Frazier is not going anywhere. I’ve known him my entire life.”
One thing’s for sure: All eyes are going to be on Frazier for the next couple years. Is he another William Wesley, someone that rides a prep phenom (in Wesley’s case, Dajuan Wagner) to become an NBA power broker that works behind the scenes on the most important transactions in basketball? Or is he only interested in remaining a mentor to Anthony and Selby who eventually be viewed as a surrogate father like the Tuohy family in the movie, “The Blind Side”?
Time will tell.