Oklahoma Student Athlete Spotlight: James Fraschilla
By Samuel Thomas
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
James Fraschilla knows how to get people's attention.
The sophomore walk-on guard for the University of Oklahoma basketball team and some of his OU teammates recently went viral for their creative bench celebrations whenever a Sooner hits a 3-pointer or makes a big play.
But even before his sideline antics garnered nationwide attention, Fraschilla was dropping jaws on YouTube through two videos that show him and other OU student-athletes making creative -- and seemingly impossible -- trick shots at OU's Lloyd Noble Center.
"We had some time after final exams last year to put the first one together" said Fraschilla, an avid video producer. "I had always watched (former Duke Blue Devil and current Detroit Piston forward) Kyle Singler's trick shot videos on YouTube, and thought I could do the same thing."
Fraschilla was entering a crowded marketplace. Singler made a name for himself with trick shots, and so have the "Dude Perfect" trick shooters at Texas A&M and the skilled guards at Gonzaga's hoops squad.
Fraschilla knew that trick shot videos garnered a lot of views, so he decided to take advantage of the opportunity and transfer the attention to Hayden's Hope, an organization started by ESPN anchor Dari Nowkhah to raise awareness for pediatric organ donation.
"I figured the video was going to get a lot of views and people were going to like it and share it," Fraschilla said. "So I thought I might as well attach a good cause to it. That's what is really important."
Nowkhah and his wife, Jenn, started Hayden's Hope after their 39-day-old son, Hayden Michael Nowkhah, died in August 2011 after a virus attacked his heart. Hayden was in need of a heart transplant that was unavailable at the time.
Now the Nowkhahs spend their spare time raising awareness about Hayden's story and the need for pediatric organ donation. Hayden's Hope also works in conjunction with the Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA) to raise money to cover transplant-related expenses in honor of children awaiting life-saving transplants.
The Nowkhahs were impressed by Fraschilla's shooting, but were more appreciative of his willingness to help others.
"It just shows what kind of kid he is," Dari Nowkhah said. "I don't know what made him want to attach our cause to his video, so for whatever reason he did it, we're thankful for him. My wife and I have worked hard to get Hayden's story out there, and this certainly helps.
"We've seen a lot of these videos over the last few years, and I've never seen one that attaches a cause to it. James knows what is important in life."
Even Oklahoma forward Amath M'Baye, who made a cameo appearance in both videos, recognizes what kind of priorities Fraschilla holds.
"It's the right mentality," M'Baye said. "He knew the videos were going to get a lot of hits, and he thought he could help somebody else out with his videos. He chose a great organization to sponsor and help."
While the video editing -- which was also done by James -- makes it seem like Fraschilla simply walked in the gym doors and started hitting shots, he actually spent hours planning and executing the attempts.
"It was hilarious," M'Baye said. "He can get pretty focused and go for hours. I was shooting at the gym one day after finals and saw him running around with his camera and shooting. It was impressive how he got those shots down. It probably took 15 minutes for each one."
Even Nowkhah, an OU grad who has seen a lot of basketball as a lead anchor on ESPNU and SportsCenter, was impressed.
"I realize that he didn't just walk in and shoot a couple shots and knock them down," Nowkhah said. "It took days spending time practicing and setting up shots. I completely realize the amount of time he put into it, which makes it even more impressive."
Nowkhah said his two favorite shots came from the first video: one while James was running on a treadmill and the other while sitting in the back of a golf cart.
M'Baye gave a hint that a few even more impressive shots were left out because they took too much time to execute.
"I tried to do a cartwheel dunk, but it took too long and I got tired," M'Baye said, who had to settle for an alley-oop slam.
Fraschilla was appreciative of M'Baye, who helped in both videos, and the other student-athletes, like OU quarterback Landry Jones, who gave their time to help the second video.
"I think people seemed to like them a lot," Fraschilla said. "That's why I got Landry in it, and got help from the Gonzaga guys."
"I wanted to get the video exposed to a bunch of different groups. There are a lot of OU football fans and college basketball fans around the country. We wanted to reach them and get as much exposure as possible."
Fraschilla's roommate, OU placekicker Erik Hosek, was tasked with the most difficult shot of the two productions, according to Fraschilla.
"That one probably took the longest," Fraschilla said. "There was a great degree of difficulty in kicking a football in from 80 feet. That was kind of crazy."
At the end of the day, Fraschilla said he is glad he could spread the well-deserved attention to someone else.
"I heard about the cause and thought it would be a cool thing to do," Fraschilla said. "That if one of the videos were to go viral, and had the Hayden's Hope logo on it, that would reach a lot of people. Hopefully people would see it and feel like it was a worthy cause to donate their time or money to."