SAN ANTONIO (AP) -Bobby Frasor sat at his locker wearing the same warmup jersey as the rest of his North Carolina teammates. He looked just as ready as everybody else to run onto the court for practice at his first Final Four.
Yet the raised 3-inch scar on his left knee said otherwise.
While the Tar Heels have put together the winningest season in school history, Frasor is stuck on the sideline. He hasn't played since a knee injury ended his season in December, forcing him to look for any way to contribute to the team's NCAA tournament run.
After taking on roles of coach, cheerleader and jokester, Frasor said he's thrilled for his teammates to be just two wins away from a national championship - even if it hurts not to be out there with them.
``I'm sure watching them play and everything will be fun,'' Frasor said. ``But at the same time, it's hard to watch knowing you could be out there.''
The Tar Heels (36-2), who play Kansas on Saturday night, miss Frasor as much he misses them. At 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, he was a proven veteran with the versatility to play either guard spot. Early in the season, he ran the offense when speedy point guard Ty Lawson went down with the first of two ankle sprains. According to the coaches, Frasor graded out as the team's top defensive player in five of the first dozen games.
Tougher still, Frasor hoped this season would be different from the last, when nagging foot problems sidelined him for 10 games and limited him in many others.
Instead, his season ended abruptly when his left knee buckled as he went for a steal near the sideline against Nevada on Dec. 27.
Frasor had surgery in January to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has avoided the ``Why me?'' trap, but it isn't easy watching the Tar Heels go forward without him. He's one of four members of a junior class that had to step up and play right away after the 2005 NCAA championship team lost its top seven scorers.
``It's tough to look at Bobby because we know what he has meant to this team on the court,'' said Marcus Ginyard, another member of that group, ``and what he continues to mean off the court. It's tough not to be able to watch him participate.''
Still, Frasor did his best to take part in Friday's practice at the Alamodome. He threw passes to teammates during a shooting drill. A few minutes later, he started shooting from his seat on the bench, missing repeatedly before finally getting one to drop through the net - drawing chuckles from coach Roy Williams and applause from the Tar Heel faithful looking on from the stands.
``It's every player's dream to be here,'' said All-American Tyler Hansbrough, Frasor's roommate. ``But Bobby's handled it very well. He's kind of an assistant coach in a way.''
That's a common refrain from Frasor's teammates. Lawson recalled Frasor suggesting a play during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament that drew the defense to sharpshooter Wayne Ellington and left a teammate open for the shot. Deon Thompson said Frasor will gesture - waving a hand in front of his own face - to remind Thompson not to sulk after a bad play. Alex Stepheson said Frasor is quick to notice tendencies from opposing big men that pay dividends on the defensive end.
``When you're watching the game from the bench, you almost remember all the plays or when something significant happens,'' Frasor said. ``And then at halftime, you go in there and mention it to the guys before the coaches talk to them. Some of the time, it'll be the same thing that coach says and (teammate Danny Green) will look over at me and kind of smile.''
Of course, Frasor isn't all business. When Ellington had to run sprints during practice for getting a technical foul in the ACC tournament, Frasor reminded Williams that Hansbrough didn't run when he picked up a technical earlier in the season. Soon Hansbrough - an All-America selection who was named The Associated Press national player of the year Friday - was running, too.
Frasor figures lightening the mood is one way to contribute. At least it eases the increasing pressure on his teammates now that they're only two wins away from a national championship.
It also helps ease the pain of not being on the court alongside them.
``It would be nice to have a ring and talk about it the rest of my life, yeah,'' Frasor acknowledged, ``but I'd have to say I wasn't as big of a part of it as I could've been.''
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