In First Season, Fraschilla Maximizes Limited Playing Time

Smart. Tough. Knowledgeable. A student of the game.

This is how freshman Matt Fraschilla’s high school basketball coach David Piehler described the point guard.

“The first word that comes to my mind is tough. Just toughness,” Piehler said. “He’s a very smart player. He knew where to be, what to do, whom to guard, whom to not guard.”

Few at Harvard may know his name, as Fraschilla has only seen action in seven games this season for a total of 17 minutes, with sophomore Siyani Chambers racking up most of the minutes in the point guard position.

“I know that he’s such a competitor that it kills him inside that he’s not out there playing,” said Fraschilla’s former high school co-captain Matt Wilson. “He understands that he’s got to wait his turn. I’ve talked to him about this, and he just can’t wait until he gets an opportunity…. It’s just about staying positive and really getting your work in in practice because that’s pretty much your game.”

Fraschilla had his best game of the season in his collegiate debut on November 12th against MIT when he had 6 points on 2-for-3 shooting. In just nine minutes, Fraschilla matched the number of points Chambers scored in 19 minutes against the Engineers.

The Dallas, Texas native also recorded two steals in the MIT contest. Aside from his shooting ability, Fraschilla’s quickness on the court gives him the potential to be a strong defensive presence.

“Technique and anticipation makes you quicker, and he did both of those,” Piehler said. “Defensively, I’d say he’s one of the best on-ball defenders I’ve ever coached as far as staying in front and not getting beat off the dribble.”

Though he’s the shortest member of the March Madness bound Crimson at just 5’11”, what Fraschilla lacks in height he makes up for in work ethic.

“I never thought that his lack of height was a deterrent at all,” Piehler said. “I thought it was probably a strength because some people overlooked him and maybe didn’t think as much of him because he was shorter. He more than made up for that in his tenacity and determination and hard work.”

Before joining fellow freshmen forwards Zena Edosomwan and Hunter Myers at Harvard, Fraschilla played for Highland Park High School in Dallas and was co-captain his senior year.

In his two seasons at the varsity level, his team finished 54-10. Though his coach recognized his skills as a player, he also noted the importance of Fraschilla’s character as a leader on the team and in the community.

“He’s a quality individual. He’s not just a good basketball player but he’s well rounded,” Piehler said. “I teach a special needs PE class and I’ve seen Matt work with special needs kids, and he volunteered as a Special Olympics coach for at least the last two years.”

With Chambers leading the team in minutes and assists, it is unlikely that Fraschilla will earn a starting spot during Chambers’ remaining two years as a member of the Crimson. But the freshman can still have an effect coming off the bench.

“[There are] those guys that don’t play very much, they are the guys that will make your team better, work hard in practice every day, [and] push the starters,” Piehler said. “I’m sure he played a big role in pushing the starters in practice, making them better, whether it be on the scout team, running the other team’s offense…. I know he did that well and every coach needs players like that.”

Though this will be the freshman’s first trip to the Big Dance, the Fraschilla family is quite familiar with Division I basketball. Matt’s father, Fran Fraschilla, coached for Manhattan College, St. John’s University, and New Mexico—the very school Harvard beat last season in the NCAA Tournament. Fran Fraschilla has also served as a basketball commentator for ESPN, and Matt’s older brother, James Fraschilla, is a junior guard for the Oklahoma Sooners.

“He’s definitely got [basketball] in his blood,” Piehler said.

—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at thebert@college.harvard.edu.

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