When he got to the free throw line with 66 seconds to play in what would be a 22-point loss at the College of Charleston last Saturday, Drexel’s Chandler Fraser-Pauls had a chance to score the first points of his career.
Instead, he missed both free throws so badly that coach Bruiser Flint later joked about how poor the attempts were.
“My first free throw I definitely rushed a little bit,” said Fraser-Pauls. “I never felt that nervous. I told the guys on the court that they should have made a joke or something to calm me down.”
The recollection of a wide-eyed freshman aspiring to be something more than the last man on the bench?
He may be the last man on the bench, but Fraser-Pauls is a graduate student with four years of varsity athletic experience. What makes him unique is that those four years were spent playing another sport at another school: soccer at Lafayette. Until he took the court at Towson on Jan. 16 he had never played a minute of college basketball.
Fraser-Pauls’ first love has always been basketball. Lafayette recruited him for soccer and hoops, but the Pennington, N.J., native knew following his freshman season with the Leopards that there was no way he was going to also play basketball. He was burnt out.
But basketball remained the fire within and Fraser-Pauls wants nothing more than to coach at the Division I level. That desire combined with connections at Drexel, including Flint’s long-time friendship with the family and Fraser-Pauls having played AAU for Dragons assistant Bobby Jordan, made for a seamless transition to the Philadelphia campus.
“I said, look, I want to get into coaching college basketball,” said Fraser-Pauls, recalling a lunch meeting with Flint and Jordan following his senior soccer season at Lafayette. “I know I need a year of playing, to learn and be part of a program. Bruiser said it was not going to be easy and that this is not an easy career path to take, but that if I want to do this I have to be all in. I told them I want to do it and I have known for a while that this is what I have wanted to do.”
Fraser-Pauls, with a degree in government and law and four years of athletic experience on his resume, enrolled in Drexel’s sport management program last summer to commence the next chapter in his life.
The guard appeared in only four of the Dragons’ first 23 games, but that is a mere footnote when compared to the experience he has been getting during practice and games absorbing as much as he can from the coaches.
Fraser-Pauls also stands out on the bench. Not because of his listed 6-foot, 175-pound stature, but because he is most enthusiastically cheering on teammates from start to finish during what has been a difficult season for a team that was 3-20 entering Thursday’s game at Delaware.
“I have been through the whole thing before in college athletics,” he said. “My job is to bring energy, to push people and do whatever I can to help. During games that means rallying the troops a little bit and talking to the guys. Whenever I have participated in sports I have always brought passion. That is how I believe you should live and play and I feel that energy is contagious.”
Flint, who all along was receptive to having Fraser-Pauls join his program, is very pleased with how he has blended in.
“He brings unbelievable energy to practice,” said the coach, in his 15th season guiding Drexel. “He always has his motor going. During drills he talks a little crap to the guys and goes at them a little bit. He is trying to keep everybody’s head up. He has been great with the players, great with the guys on the bench.”
When it came to his teammates Fraser-Pauls, a 1,000-point scorer in high school, was a little anxious at first. After all, he was coming on board as a grad student who had not played on the college hardwood.
“They have been very accepting and open to this new guy coming in, but I was nervous,” he said. “I had not played competitive basketball for five years. It was a huge adjustment. There were high expectations and nobody held back. There was no babying of me, which I did not want. Everybody has been awesome and I have been very lucky.”
Serving as a buffer between players and coaches has been part of the deal. If a teammate, especially a younger one, is uncomfortable going directly to a member of the coaching staff Fraser-Pauls is a sounding board at the ready.
“I am an older guy and I have a relationship with the coaching staff as well as with the players,” he said. “I am a guy the players can talk to and express their feelings. I listen, give my advice and we move on.”
Well, Fraser-Pauls may not be able to move on until he records at least one point.
“I wish I could have those two free throws back,” he said laughing, “but I will get a bucket before the end of the season.”