By Taeeba Sadar
Errol Fraser, arguably Ryerson’s most talented athlete, is looking past his last year of athletic eligibility to a future as a high school teacher.
Fraser is one year shy of graduating from the arts and contemporary studies program at Ryerson and, as co-captain of the Rams, attempting to take this year’s basketball team as far as it can go.
But he didn’t always want to play basketball:
“As a kid I really liked hockey but I couldn’t skate,” said Fraser. “It’s a very expensive sport to get into. It wasn’t feasible.”
But back then, eight-year-old Fraser, like most children, was fickle and resilient and it wasn’t long after that he developed another more consuming interest.
“I saw Michael Jordan,” said Fraser. “It was 1987 and the [Chicago] Bulls were playing the Detroit Pistons. Jordan couldn’t get over this hump and they kept losing in Detroit but then they won the championship.”
The NBA star inspired Fraser, and by the time he entered St. Francis Xavier high school in Mississauga, he had adopted a serious approach to the game. He started to play regularly, although he admits that his early years were marred y a lack of coordination and skill.
“I used to be the worst,” said Fraser. “[My friends] used to tell me that I stunk. They beat me up on the ball court but I just got better.”
Eventually his theology teacher and coach, Tim Yawney, took notice of Fraser’s burgeoning talent and imbued him with a sense of passion for the game.
Thinking back to when he was in Grade 11, Fraser recalls his most memorable night on the court: despite being underdogs his team beat one of the top teams in the GTA and Fraser scored 44 points that night, his best game to date.
He continued to play after he enrolled in Algonquin College in Ottawa to earn a degree in electrical engineering; he played point guard for the Thunder for two years.
After college Fraser moved back to Mississauga and in the summer of 2000 he was hired by the engineering department of Baringer Research to work with a team of people to improve airport security. Fraser helped build machines designed to detect narcotics and explosives smuggled into airports and aboard airplanes.
“I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it,” said Fraser.
He soon grew tired of his job and realized that he wanted to go back to school.
When he had free time, Fraser played basketball at George Brown College where one day O’Neil Kamaka, who is now the assistant coach of the Ryerson Rams, happened to drop by and caught a glimpse of Fraser’s performance.
Intrigued by what he saw, Kamaka asked Fraser to consider studying at Ryerson and playing for the Rams. After some careful thought Fraser accepted the offer and quickly realized he had made the right decision.
“I was a good fit in the team,” says Fraser. “At the time I brought in another dimension — a point guard that could shoot.”
Rams head coach Patrick Williams has become attuned to Fraser’s habits on the court, both good and bad.
“He’s too nice,” said Williams. “It’s great off the court but he has to learn to chew on some opponents.”
According to Williams there have also been times when Fraser has lost his concentration in the midst of a charged and heated game.
“He’ll lose focus and momentum and then explode out of nowhere,” said Williams.
Fraser acknowledges that most athletes have some poor qualities and need to commit themselves to practice and hard work. In this respect, he says he’s no different from other players.
“Basketball is 10 per cent physical and 90 per cent mental,” said Fraser. “I’m mentally weak — so I work on making adjustments to help me withstand what’s happening on the court.”
He also admits that being co-captain can be a difficult burden to bear and the expectations to deliver a perfect performance are usually high.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “If I don’t fulfill my role we cant succeed but I’ve learned to deal with being the main focal point of the team.”
Having a few loyal fans has helped ease the strain of being the team leader.
“My family and my girlfriend are my biggest fans and critics,” said Fraser. “My girlfriend [Keisha Williams] is at every game to encourage me. If I’m doing something wrong, she’ll let me know.”
Even so, there was a brief period when Fraser had trouble keeping up with the demands of the game and at one point he was ready to leave the Rams.
“There were times I wanted to quit,” he said. “I wanted to focus on school. I felt my basketball life wasn’t complete. Then I decided that I wanted to help Ryerson achieve powerhouse status.”
Fraser’s determination bodes well for the Rams, and Williams is certain that his start player has a great career ahead.
“He once scored 30 points in a game and he wasn’t even pushing full throttle,” said Williams. “There is so much more to come.”
But surprisingly, despite all the praise and his natural prowess for the sport, Fraser isn’t striving for a potentially lucrative career in professional basketball. Instead he spends his time courting a different ambition.
“I’ve realized that I want to become a high-school teacher,” said Fraser. “I have an opportunity to have an effect [on other kids]. Many teachers don’t show kids the way or help them choose what’s right for them.”
And while he’s happy to have discovered his true vocation, Fraser is most excited about becoming a mentor to young people.
“I only had one teacher [Yawney] to help me find my way,” said Fraser. “I was never really pushed. I want to make sure other kids that have potential are pushed. I want to give back. “
it’s an approach Fraser also uses with his teammates and hopes to help them achieve their best on the court.
“There are a lot of rookies on this team,” said Fraser. “I’m an older player so I try to bring up the young guys and show them the ropes. I try to be a leader and show them that after hard work we can become great.”
While Fraser wants to explore new directions that may lead him off of the basketball court for good, the Rams need not worry. Fraser assures that his personal goals won’t distract him from the commitments he’s made to the team.
During exhibition games that commitment has shown: last Friday against Humber College, Fraser scored 30 points, pulled down nine rebounds, and dished out four assists.
The Rams’ regular season begins on Friday against the Lakehead Thunderwolves in Thunder Bay.
“I’m on my game,” said Fraser. “I love to play with intensity. I love to play in the air.”