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January 17, 2003

Frazier doesn't want to hear it

From: Daily News, CA - 17 Jan 2003

Deaf CSUN guard desires hoops, not help

By Jill Painter
Staff Writer

Joseph Frazier is the one player who knows he can ignore Bobby Braswell and get away with it.

As the Cal State Northridge coach yells at players during a recent practice, Frazier has his back turned. He has that typical happy-go-lucky grin on his face. All he wants is to get back to implementing a new wrinkle in the offense.

Sometimes, Frazier really can't hear Braswell. Every once in awhile, he chooses not to.

Frazier, a sophomore guard, is hearing impaired. He lost 60 percent of his hearing after a bout with meningitis -- which left him in a coma for a week -- when he was 2. Frazier, who turned 20 on Friday, is legally deaf.

But he doesn't want you to know. He simply doesn't want to be different, even though he is.

Frazier has unbelievable speed. An unnatural supply of energy. He's a defensive wizard and uses his body as a sacrificial ornament to take charges, save loose balls via a scorer's table or unassuming fans. That's what he wants you to know.

"He doesn't want to appear as though there's something wrong with him," said Tai Whaley, Frazier's mom. "He doesn't view it as a deficit. At this point, he's an adult, so I have to go with the flow."

Which, for Frazier, is quite a frantic pace.

Frazier, who's played some at point guard this year, averages 6.3 points and two steals per game. He's got all the intangibles, too. He's always on the go and it shows in his game.

What you don't see are visible signs that he's legally deaf. Frazier refuses to wear hearing aids, much to the chagrin of his mother. Coaches asked about it, too. She told them good luck. He won't use resources available for extra help.

But Frazier gets along just fine.

"Sometimes, I can hear people, and it seems like I ignore them sometimes," Frazier said. "Sometimes, I know (Braswell's) calling me, but I'm not focused. I try to really pay attention to that. I feel like I'm all right. I don't have a major problem."

But Frazier doesn't always pay attention, especially when Braswell's booming voice is beckoning. It's an ongoing joke with his teammates. Even Braswell knows Frazier often purposely tunes him out.

But he's such a determined worker, has such a positive aura and passion about him and is so fun to be around, it's hard to be mad at Frazier for long. Even if he's not listening.

"He has this energy that I don't know where he gets it from," Braswell said. "When everyone else is down and out, he's still going. You wish you had three or four guys like him. If we had three or four guys like him, we'd win a lot of championships."

Three or four Fraziers? Even Frazier laughed at the idea.

"If it was a bunch of me's out here, we'd be a wild team," Frazier said. "Everyone would be running around. I can't picture a lot of myselves out there."

Frazier always is in a good mood and typically has his teammates and coaches engaged in fits of laughter; his personality is infectious. There's only a couple of things that detract from his usually sunny outlook: losing, something CSUN (6-8, 0-4 Big West Conference) has done a lot this season, and talking about his hearing impairment.

"He doesn't want to be treated differently," Whaley said. "Even any type of (hearing) aid he didn't want if it made him look different. As a parent, that gets frustrating. You want to give your kid the best things possible."

Frazier complained that when he wore hearing aids, they'd get wet from sweat and become ineffective during games. But he doesn't wear them anywhere else, either. Plus, Frazier can read lips and hear most sounds -- including Braswell's voice.

This method isn't always accurate.

Teammates often nudge him during games to make sure he knows what play they're running. If he's not sure what someone said, he'll flash a smile, giggle and respond to what he thinks was said.

"It's funny because in the recruiting process, one of the (college) coaches asked him something on the phone and he didn't answer that question," said Don Grant, Frazier's coach at Muir High in Pasadena. "If he doesn't hear correctly, he'll just pretend he did. He'll answer something totally different. Some of the coaches may have thought he was out there until you explain it to them."

Whaley had to do that with a dean at a school Frazier visited before he settled on Cal State Northridge. He won't ask someone to repeat things and it worries Whaley, who had to battle Frazier constantly to do things to help his own cause. Homework was a constant struggle from elementary school to high school.

Frazier worked with a speech therapist, about the only form of help he has received. Once, Whaley went to Muir and completed paperwork to allow Frazier extra time to take the SAT. He got to the counselor's office and refused to sign the paper.

"He amazes me," Whaley said. "He's always been a fighter. He's a good person and he's overcome a lot. He's just extremely strong-willed. Always has been. And channeled in the right way, that's a good thing."

Frazier knows he's lucky. After a month-long stay in the hospital when he was 2, he had to relearn how to talk and walk. Basically, how to do everything.

Frazier doesn't remember much about it, but he does know he was fortunate to have survived.

"I've seen pictures (of) when I was in the hospital," Frazier said. "I had all these things on my chest. I think, 'Man, I could've died from that.' I'm very blessed. It's good to be here."

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