the four piece band at the sioux city hilton was singing, “we’re goin’ to kansas city, kansas city here we come” not long ago, and for a very good reason. Every year, the NAIA holds its championship tournament in Kansas City, and Sioux City’s tiny Briar Cliff College had already defeated the team that denied it the chance to go last season. An even better reason for high hopes is Rolando Frazer, a slender 6’7″ senior forward from Panama City whose 32.1-point average leads Naia in scoring and whose 36.4-point mark last season was the best for All college players Frazer is the best of 11 Panamanians to find their way to Briar Cliff since 1974. It’s no wonder pro scouts are finding their way to the Sioux City Auditorium.
“The word has gotten out that this kid is a must-see,” the 76ers’ Bob Lukstra said after seeing a fairly typical Frazer half against Grand View College, the team that kept Briar Cliff out of Kansas City LA last season. however, the circumstances were not typical. Despite having the flu, Frazer not only started the game, but also started it off with a great dunk, twice scoring 10 straight points from Briar Cliff and casting a spell on the crowd that cast a spell on the umpires’ whistles when he flagrantly scored a Great view. Shooting. “I guess they’re surprised it’s going up that high, so they don’t call it,” Frazer said later in his heavily accented English. With 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting (he’s shooting 61.5% for his career) and Briar Cliff leading 46-27, Frazer walked off the court at halftime and threw up. So much for the idea that Panamanian athletes can’t perform on weak stomachs. then in the second half, he added 17 more points as the Chargers advanced, 94-73.
frazer isn’t one of those cases of body-for-fisherman, mind-for-mattel attitude that tend to show up on small-college top-10 scoring lists. He is aware that weaknesses in his defense and free throw shooting (64.7% this year) may prevent him from becoming a first-round pro pick.
Some scouts are also skeptical about the strength of teams against which frazer has increased his scoring totals. but with international experience against a Soviet national team and at the Pan American games, a durable 205-pound frame, and a more team-oriented style of play this season than last, he’s holding his own.
that frazer excels on the court isn’t really that surprising; He comes from an athletic family. Ella’s brother Alfonso was a junior welterweight world boxing champion in 1972. One sister, Julie, was on the Panama women’s national basketball team, while Rolando was on the men’s. Another brother, Enrique, was the best basketball player in the family, Rolando says, until he defied doctor’s orders and played with a dunk-induced shoulder separation. The aggravated injury ended Enrique’s career.
Roland’s anticipation and ballhandling abilities, essentials for a small forward or big shooting guard in the pros, are impressive for someone who’s been playing ball on his own since ninth grade, as is his shooting. bench favorite with two hands after taking a post pass and rolling to face the basket. He was a soccer player when he was in ninth grade, but his size (he was 6’5″ then) attracted a greedy coach named Cecilio Williams. Coincidentally, it was also around this time that the Panamanian Briar Cliff Pipeline began operations.
“eight years ago we played at doane university in nebraska and they had three starters from panama,” says coach ray nacke. “They blocked three of our first five shots. Our coach was from Peru and he spoke Spanish, so I asked him to find out how those guys got here.” The bomb in Panama City turned out to be carried out by Williams, a former national team coach. He and Nacke began corresponding, and Briar Cliff’s first Panamanian, Eddie Warren, arrived three years later. Over the years, Cecilio has sent players to nine other schools in the states.
frazer had no plans to go to college after leaving panama city vocational high school. “I studied accounting and could have started a good job right away,” she says. “but tito and mario [two former players from panama] helped me decide to come to briar cliff. after meeting pete noonan [a current student], i decided to stay.”
Noonan, a Sioux City native, has been Frazer’s roommate since they were freshmen, and his family has made Frazer’s adjustment to life in Central America easy. Ernesto (Tito) Malcolm and Mario Butler are Briar Cliff’s other former Panamanians and NBA draft picks who, like Warren, did not turn pro. Frazer started with Warren, Malcolm, Butler and current Charger guard Reggie Grenald on the Panamanian team at the 1979 Pan American Games, which lost to the eventual champions the United States, 88-83. frazer, with 19 points, was the game’s top scorer.
“in panama you play a different style,” says frazer. “They don’t believe in open jump shots. It’s the penetration. Here you play more disciplined, you run the plays, you work for the shots.” Only boxing is more popular than basketball in Panama, and both Frazer’s parents work for Roberto Duran’s manager, Carlos Eleta. Frazer’s father, Alfonso, has been Eleta’s driver for 30 years, and Frazer’s mother, Marion, is a supervisor at Eleta’s cigarette factory.
“I like America, new things, big buildings, big companies,” Frazer says. “But you can’t live here in Sioux City. It’s too cold. It’s a good place to study though. It’s so cold you have to study.” She has a B average as a business major at the Franciscan School, which was founded by nuns during the depression to educate women. The university first began admitting men in 1966, and in the past five seasons, Briar Cliff (currently 14-2) has gone 126-33 and seen his enrollment (now 1,272) grow by 39%. school officials say the two increases are mismatched.
Briar Cliffs’ two fiercest rivals, Morningside College, also in Sioux City, and Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa, have not taken the Chargers’ success with grace. Northwest fans have shown up at briar cliff games in baggy plantation clothes and straw hats, wielding fly swatters, and in December several morning students tossed a banana and a fish onto the field as they cut into Panamanian connections and briar cliffs catholics. “It just makes me play harder, I want to beat them more,” Frazer says.
Find a nicer atmosphere at the home of a local Panamanian woman who treated all the Panamanians on Briar Cliff to a chicken and rice dinner on New Year’s Eve. she in her bedroom will adopt a pose as incongruous as it is languid, listening to salsa in a downtown ponca, nebraska, where she is in the t-shirt.
frazer wants to work in the usa. uu. as a resident alien after graduation, citing dallas and miami as cities with pleasant climates. “I like business because a businessman sits by the air conditioner at a big desk,” she says. “That’s what I want to do: sit at a big desk and be my own boss.” That is, if some other vocational plans, which would take him to the NBA or a European professional team, fail. But for now, Frazer and his team have another destination in mind. come on, wilbert. “I’m going to Kansas City, here I come to Kansas City…”