Longtime Wellington resident and basketball standout Trent Frazier is fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing professional basketball. But it’s not in the National Basketball Association — at least not yet.
After a star-studded and accolade-filled career playing travel basketball with the Wellington Wolves, high school basketball at Wellington High School and college basketball at the University of Illinois, Frazier turned professional last year and headed to Europe with a suitcase of clothes, his favorite pair of Nike Lebron James basketball shoes and his passport.
That was in the late spring/early summer of 2022. Without an agent representing him, Frazier found a professional basketball playing opportunity with FMP, a pro team in Belgrade, Serbia. Frazier’s professional basketball journey in Europe took him to Finland, Montenegro, Lithuania and Croatia to play.
“I have lots of stamps on my passport,” said Frazier, who graduated from the University of Illinois in 2022 with a degree in sports management.
At mid-season, which was back in mid-January of this year, he started playing with another pro basketball team. It was the Zenit Basketball Club, which is based in St. Petersburg, Russia.
“My contract was bought out by Zenit at mid-season to go play for them,” Frazier recalled. “You are allowed to leave a team at mid-season as long as both clubs come to an agreement.”
While in Russia, he played 15 games for Zenit before the team was eliminated in the league playoffs back in May. He was one of four Americans playing for Zenit last season. After the Russian playoffs, Frazier returned to Wellington. Since arriving home, he has been getting ready for another year of professional basketball overseas by running on a treadmill and playing pickup basketball games at the Wellington Boys & Girls Club.
“On the treadmill, my goal is to run a mile in less than five minutes and 30 seconds,” Frazier said.
Looking back, Frazier enjoyed his new Russian surroundings earlier this year, despite the frigid temperatures.
“It was very cold in Russia,” he said. “But St. Petersburg is a gorgeous city, and I feel safe there. I have an amazing opportunity to live overseas and play pro basketball. And the food is good. I like the sushi, and I eat a lot of duck.”
The Russian experience was so good for Frazier that he has signed a new one-year contract to return and play for Zenit for the 2023-24 basketball season. He left for Russia on Sunday, Aug. 13 and arrived on Monday, Aug. 14. He won’t return until next May. In addition to his salary, his compensation includes an apartment, access to a car, and round-trip airfare to and from Russia. With Russia being such a big country, Frazier said that his team flies from game to game in its own charter jet to compete in the 14-team league.
Last year, Frazier traveled to Russia by himself. This year, he is being joined by his girlfriend Jade Vernaci. While Vernaci’s past European travels have taken her to Italy, Switzerland, France and Monaco, visiting Russia is different, especially now with the country at war with Ukraine.
“I’m a little worried, but Trent has assured me that we will be safe,” said Vernaci, who graduated from Florida International University with a degree in special education. “My parents are a little concerned. The only thing I know about Russia is what I have seen on the news.”
Getting to Russia these days is not easy. According to Frazier, he and Jade flew from the U.S. to Istanbul, Turkey. From there, they boarded a flight to Russia.
Despite being a long way from home, Frazier stays in close contact with his parents back in Wellington.
“I call them every night between 8 and 10 p.m.,” added Frazier, who turns 25 in September. “We use a group chat within WhatsApp. At that time of night, it is early afternoon here in Wellington.”
His parents — and anybody, for that matter — can also watch his games for free with an app affiliated with his team, Zenit. The app is VTB League Official. It’s a free download.
Throughout the upcoming Russian basketball season, Frazier will be working on finding a professional basketball opportunity back in the U.S.
“I hope to be playing in the NBA’s Summer League next year and land a spot with an NBA team,” Frazier said.
Looking back on his time growing up in Wellington, which included seven seasons of travel basketball with the Wellington Wolves and four years of varsity basketball with coach Matthew Colin at Wellington High School, he’s thankful for the involvement of Colin in his life.
“Besides being one of the best coaches I’ve played for, he has been such an impactful mentor in my life,” Frazier said. “He has helped me open up many different areas of my game.”
Frazier also benefited by playing for the University of Illinois in the rugged Big Ten Conference.
“I learned who I was, not only as a player, but as a person,” Frazier said. “Being able to adjust to different roles and still be the player I am.”
If you want to follow Frazier on social media, where he regularly posts his basketball videos and images, follow him on Instagram @TrentFrazier. Frazier currently has more than 86,000 Instagram followers who are tracking his life as a professional basketball player.