- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Illinois guard Chester Frazier, the Illini’s assists and steals leader, will miss Friday night’s Big Ten quarterfinals _ and likely the rest of the conference tournament _ after having surgery on an injured right hand.

Spokesman Kent Brown would not say Friday whether the hand was broken but did say Frazier might be able to play next weekend when the Fighting Illini are expected to be playing in the NCAA tournament, although it didn’t look promising when Frazier arrived for Friday night’s quarterfinal game against Michigan.

He watched his teammates warm up and although he dressed in his uniform, Frazier sat on the bench with a large black cast covering the entire hand and stretching underneath his warmup jacket. It was the first time in 30 games that Illinois used a new starting lineup, this time without Frazier.

Senior guard Calvin Brock replaced Frazier in the lineup.

Frazier, a senior, hurt the hand during Wednesday’s practice and had the injury evaluated Wednesday night, then underwent what Brown described as minor surgery Thursday morning.

It’s a significant blow to the Fighting Illini’s hopes of claiming a Big Ten tournament title. They face Michigan on Friday night and the winner advances to Saturday’s semifinals against either No. 24 Purdue or Penn State.

“I don’t know what was done, when I saw it today, it was covered,” Brown said. “We’ve been told he still has a chance to play next weekend and that will be evaluated then. But he’s not playing tonight and it’s highly unlikely he’ll play this weekend.”

Brown said Frazier would not speak about the injury before or after Friday night’s game, although he is expected to be on the bench.

Frazier was named to the league’s all-defensive team this week and leads the Big Ten in assists (5.3). He also led the Illini in steals (43) and minutes played (33.2), was Illinois’ second-leading rebounder (4.8) and averages 5.7 points.

The injury is unlikely to have an impact on Illinois making the NCAA tournament, but if Frazier can’t play next week, it could affect the Illini’s seeding.

Most believe the Illini (23-8) are a lock to earn their fifth NCAA bid in coach Bruce Weber’s six seasons.

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