When the CSUN men’s basketball season closes, so too will the careers of the team’s four seniors. Ian Boylan, profiled in the Feb. 17 edition of the Sundial, Joseph Frazier, Etoagwara Onyenegecha and Davin White have been the backbone of this team for the past two seasons.
They play their final home game in a Northridge uniform tonight against UC-Davis.
Frazier has been at Northridge for four seasons, emerging as a scoring threat over the past two. As of Friday, the six-foot-two guard was averaging 11 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
He has encountered his share of discipline problems while at CSUN, including missing 14 games earlier this season due to a suspension imposed by head coach Bobby Braswell. Frazier also missed 11 games near the end of last season.
“My worst time was being off the team,” said Frazier. “Whenever I’m suspended, that’s not a good sign for me.”
Onyenegecha, one of Frazier’s friends off the court, also felt the impact of the suspension.
“His suspension affected me a lot. It let me see a lot of things,” Onyenegecha said.
When it was announced Frazier would return on Feb. 16 against Cal Poly, fans reacted positively. Near the end of the game, when Frazier was still on the bench, the fans in attendance chanted, “We Want Frazier!” and gave him a standing ovation when he entered the game with two minutes remaining.
“It was excitement,” said Frazier. “It was good to see that I have people out there who still cared about me and didn’t look at me as a negativity. They enjoyed me coming back. I admired it.”
Frazier rewarded the fans with a steal and breakaway dunk, his only basket of the game.
“Joe has just been an inspiration to these guys the way he’s stuck through the whole ordeal, and how he’s handled himself and how he’s changed,” said Braswell. “I think the guys see this huge change in his attitude and his outlook on this team, and it encourages them, and they feel very close to him because of that.”
Like the famed pugilist of the same name, Frazier is praised for being tough and aggressive, especially on defense. Entering the weekend, he had 147 steals in his career, the 5th-most in Northridge history. Frazier is also legally deaf.
“The fact that he’s deaf, and the fact that he’s overcome that and become the great basketball player that he is,” said Braswell. “We’ve had some issues with Joe, but all in all, I think he’ll have a great story to tell one day.”
Onyenegecha came to Northridge after playing junior college ball at the City College of San Francisco. He grew up in Richmond, Calif., in a bad neighborhood that could be considered the Bay Area’s equivalent of Compton or Watts.
“It was rough, but I managed to still have fun,” said Onyenegecha.
Onyenegecha has been hampered all year with injuries. Suffering from knee tendinitis and injuries to an ankle and foot on the same leg, the six-foot-six forward is averaging just 5 points and 4 rebounds per game, well below last year’s averages of 13 and 6.
The injuries forced him to miss three games in January. Known last season as a high-flyer who led the team in dunks, Onyenegecha has had to make adjustments.
“It’s hindered my game completely,” he said. “I can’t cheat with my athletics, so now I have to do everything by the book. Stay down, box out. It’s like fundamentals.”
Even though the level of competition in Division I is higher, Onyenegecha says that it’s easier for him at this level, because he hasn’t faced the double or triple-teams he saw while at City College of San Francisco. That may change, as he has scored 14 points twice in the past two weeks and is averaging 5.5 rebounds since his return.
Even when he was unable to play, Onyenegecha was present on the bench, smiling and visibly cheering for the team during games. He had no problem staying upbeat.
“It was easy,” said Onyenegecha. “I love my teammates.”
During all the difficulties caused by Onyenegecha’s injury and Frazier’s suspension, White has been solid as a rock. He scored over ten points in 13 of the 14 games Frazier missed and is averaging 12.7 points per game this season. He’s played an important role as the team’s best three-point shooter, shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc.
“If you’re a basketball player, you have to come out and play,” said White. “Whether you got some of your guys or you lose somebody, you still have to go out and show up.”
White came to Northridge from Phoenix, Ariz. The six-foot-one guard averaged 28 points per game during his sophomore year of junior college, but had to sit out a year to obtain his AA degree.
During that time, some other schools lost interest, but Braswell kept pursuing him. That relationship has continued during White’s two years at CSUN.
“Davin in a way is like a son to me,” said Braswell. “He’s been a kid who he and I have had some private, very personal conversations about life, and he’s got a wonderful heart, and wants to do well, and I’m going to miss that about him.”
Frazier, White, and Onyenegecha will play key roles in CSUN’s quest to win the Big West Tournament next week in Anaheim. Likely to finish near the top of the conference standings, the Matadors will be one of the favored teams to win the tournament and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
“Our chances are very high,” said White. “I have high expectations for this team anyway. All we have to do is go out and work hard, and I think we can come out on top.”
Whether the season ends next week in Anaheim, or beyond that in the NCAA Tournament, it will end, and the four seniors will go their separate ways. Onyenegecha said he’d like to keep playing basketball and become a coach one day, while Frazier’s mind is set on getting his degree and seeing where life goes from there.
“I’m going to miss not having to work,” Onyenegecha said.
“I already miss these guys,” said Braswell. “You think about the four years that Ian’s put in here; that Joe’s put in here. And what Eto and Davin have done for us these last couple years. It’s going to be very difficult to say goodbye to them.”