Daily Egyptian

Walt Frazier returns to SIU as Homecoming Grand Marshal

Walt+Frazier+is+announced+during+halftime+of+the+Salukis%E2%80%99+75-70+loss+to+Evansville+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+11%2C+2017%2C+at+SIU+Arena.+Frazier+attended+the+game+to+celebrate+the+50th+anniversary+of+the+Salukis%27+1967+National+Invitation+Tournament+championship.
Walt Frazier is announced during halftime of the Salukis’ 75-70 loss to Evansville on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, at SIU Arena. Frazier attended the game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Salukis' 1967 National Invitation Tournament championship.

Walt Frazier is announced during halftime of the Salukis’ 75-70 loss to Evansville on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, at SIU Arena. Frazier attended the game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Salukis' 1967 National Invitation Tournament championship.

Daily Egyptian File Photo

Daily Egyptian File Photo

Walt Frazier is announced during halftime of the Salukis’ 75-70 loss to Evansville on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, at SIU Arena. Frazier attended the game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Salukis' 1967 National Invitation Tournament championship.

By Nathan Dodd

This year’s Homecoming festivities will have a little more flare surrounding them as Walt Frazier makes a return to his alma mater to serve as Grand Marshal for the ceremonies.

Walt “Clyde” Frazier spent 13 seasons in the NBA, winning two championship titles and a selection to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

He spent 10 years with the New York Knicks and finished his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Frazier now serves as a color analyst for the Knicks on the MSG Network.

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Before his professional career, Frazier spent his college years in Carbondale as a part of the Salukis basketball squad. As a senior, he carried the Salukis to the 1967 NIT tournament where they defeated Marquette University 71-56 in the finals to claim the title. He also earned MVP honors for the NIT tournament.

The NIT tournament was the most-prestigious championship in Frazier’s playing era, and SIU competed in the tournament as members of NCAA Division I for the first time in program history in 1967; previous postseason play from the Salukis came as a Division II team.

The basketball great leads a Homecoming that includes events such as a parade, Homecoming Hoops with current Saluki basketball players and the annual football game in addition to other various activities throughout the week.

Frazier last traveled to Carbondale in February to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the 1967 Salukis NIT championship.

“I’m excited, it’s a great honor,” Frazier said. “I’ve seen other guys get to do it and I never got the chance. This will be my first time serving as grand marshal.”

The long-time Knicks broadcaster is flying out of New York to southern Illinois Friday, and will be ready to lead the annual parade in downtown Carbondale on Saturday at 10 a.m.

“I’ll be ready to do what it is that Walt Frazier does,” the SIU alumnus said. “Meeting, greeting, taking pictures — whatever needs to be done.”

Following the parade will be the Homecoming Hoops event taking place outside of SIU Arena.

An outdoor painted basketball court will serve as the main focus for the introductions of the 2017-18 men’s and women’s basketball teams. A 3-point contest and team autograph session will also be available to fans. Homecoming Hoops is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. and run till 1 p.m.

The climax of the Homecoming festivities comes on Saturday at 2 p.m. when SIU faces off against Illinois State University in Saluki Stadium.

“This will be the first time that I’ve been back for a football game,” Frazier said. “When I was back for the NIT championship anniversary and I got to see the facilities. With all the weight facilities, I would have been looking like Hercules if I had all the equipment that they have now.”

Even with a high profile, Frazier has not missed chances to give back to SIU and Carbondale. The two-time NBA champion does not take opportunities to return to campus for granted.

“It’s always like a big family reunion,” Frazier said. “I get a chance to see former colleagues.”

Paul Henry, a teammate of his under then-SIU head coach Jack Hartman, is a longtime friend that Frazier looks forward to seeing when he visits Carbondale.

“One person I always talk to is Paul Henry,” Frazier said. “He was my mentor when I played. He was a couple of years ahead of me but he taught me a lot about the game and how to handle pressure. It’s always great to see him and reminisce about the past.”

Academic struggles during his 1965-1966 junior season led Frazier to be ineligible to play for the Salukis. He cites his experiences with people in Carbondale as a major influence in shaping how he overcame his academic struggles to become the man he is today.

“When I come back, I remember the trials and tribulations I had academically,” he said.

Frazier explained how his college career opened his eyes to the outside world.

“I was straight out of Atlanta, Georgia,” the former Saluki said. “I was petrified to be up there with 25,000 students. I had never been in an integrated situation before. I was so mesmerized being so far from home that it took me a couple of years to make the adjustment.”

Frazier said that he has still kept tabs on the SIU basketball program every year since he departed for the NBA.

“I always try to check the scores,” he said. “Some of my friends keep me updated about the school.”

When not in New York, Frazier enjoys spending time at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands which was recently affected by hurricanes.

“I have a house in Saint Croix with rental properties that I rent out to tourists,” Frazier said. “My house stood up, but my vegetation was destroyed by the hurricane. I’m really into gardening and I lost a lot of trees and plants.”

As Homecoming approaches, Frazier is prepared to serve as the face of the festivities — bringing his own style of “Walt Frazier persona” back to SIU.

“It’s good for me,” the Saluki alumnus said. “I get chills and tears in my eyes just thinking about all the things that happened. This is where ‘Walt Frazier’ was made.”

Sports reporter Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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