I happened to be on the same flight home from Los Angeles today as Jimmer Fredette, coach Dave Rose and associate athletic director Brian Santiago.
In the terminal at LAX, when Jimmer and coach Rose walked into the gate area, an interesting buzz swept through the people gathered there, and dozens of people -- kids and adults alike -- walked over to get a picture with Jimmer, or an autograph.
One father told me he had just spent a couple thousand dollars to take his family to Disneyland, but his kids were more excited to see Jimmer than they were to see Mickey Mouse.
It is really hard to over-state Fredette's popularity right now. Of course, many of the people in terminal were Utahns headed back to SLC, but Fredette's fame is far and wide.
"It is crazy. With the media today, if you are on SportsCenter, if you are on Twitter, if you are on Facebook, someone will usually recognize you. It depends on where you are, and everything," Fredette said after last night's Wooden Award presentation. " But it definitely has picked up, and it is something that is real different for me, not being used to this. It is just flattering, really, that people understand who you are and they must be really good college basketball fans, or basketball fans in general. But it is definitely a cool experience."
Jimmer's hometown newspaper reported in this story that he can no longer attend his classes at BYU because his presence has become too disruptive with the constant requests for autographs and pictures. He's finishing up winter semester online.
Of course, Fredette hasn't been in Provo much the past month, having gone from Las Vegas to Denver to New Orleans to Houston and then to Los Angeles.
"It's been crazy. I have just been running all over the place. I have been to Houston, and now L.A [on the awards circuit]," he said. "I had never been to either place before, but they both treated me really well. I had a good time and it has been a great experience -- just the people I get to meet, and I've talked to, and to be around all these great players, it is a special experience, a once in a lifetime thing."
Someone asked Fredette last night if being recognized everywhere he goes ever gets old. Not really, he said.
"I have definitely enjoyed the ride. You have to," he said. "I had a great time being with my coaches and my teammates. We have a great group of guys back in Provo, and I had a great time just hanging out with everybody back there. [This season] was the most fun I have ever had in my entire life. That's the way you have to approach it. You can't make it a job -- not yet. You have to have fun with it and love the sport, and love the people around you."
So what is next for Jimmer?
He told reporters Friday night that he has met with several people who want to represent him as his agent in the past few weeks. The next step is narrowing the list down to four or five, and then picking one or two from among them. He may have one agent or agency represent his interests on the basketball court, and perhaps another one work to get endorsements, etc.
"Then I will move on and start working out again [at basketball] here real soon, and start getting ready for the NBA Draft ... I definitely take time off [from basketball]," he said. "You have to, after that season. You give yourself a couple weeks off to refresh your body, but also your mind. It has been a grueling season, especially this year with a lot of media, a lot of different attention. You try to relax, get your mind focused, and get back on stride pretty soon."
More comments from Fredette on Friday night:
On whether he ever dreamed of this:
"I definitely wouldn't have. There are so many great players in basketball, this year especially. There are a lot of great team -- not a lot of clearcut favorites, like I was saying before. But they had guys on their teams who were leading them to great seasons.
I didn't expect this at all, but I am very, very fortunate and happy to be in this position."
On what he expected when he came back for senior year:
"I expected to be in somewhat of a good position. I wanted to be a first-team All-American, hopefully be up for some of these awards. When I made the decision to come back to school, I knew I would need to have a better year than I did last year to improve my stock in the NBA. That's what I really planned on doing, so I worked hard in the offseason.
So I knew if I came back I could be on these teams, maybe win a few of these awards. I wasn't sure that I would be able to win any of them, but you never know what can happen."
On how it feels:
"It feels great, like the hard work you have put in has finally paid off. But I couldn't have done it without my teammates and my coaching staff. They are the ones that really allowed this to happen. Without a good team, you wouldn't be in the spotlight as much. Since I was able to have a good team, and great coaches, it put me in this position, and it happened."
On whether he and Kemba Walker talked much about awards and such:
"I talked to Kemba a couple times now, throughout the year. He's a very good kid. I really like him. He's a good friend. He works extremely hard. What he did with his team is unprecedented, unbelievable. Everybody will tell you that. He deserves this award just as much as I do."
On the timing of the voting and whether Kemba's championship run had him nervous:
"Yeah, yeah, definitely. Like I say, it is unbelievable, what he did. He is such a good player, and so dynamic, in so many different ways. It is tough to beat out a player like that. I didn't know if I would or not, but it happened."
On not starting his freshman year, to where he is now as consensus player of the year:
"Yeah, definitely. I think that was a real character-building experience for me, and really helped me out in the long run. I didn't see it that way at the time. I wanted to play right away, and thought I should be [starting], like a young kid. But it really helped me out. Helped me have that chip on my shoulder, and made me work hard all the time early in my career. Instead of being given everything, I had to work for it. I kept that throughout my four years at BYU and just continued to get better and better and better every year. And it paid off."
On the experience overall the past few weeks:
"It has been surreal. It has been unbelievable, to be a part of all these festivities they have at the Final Four, and then here at the Wooden Award. I have been all over, and met some great people, some of the legends of the basketball world, people you grew up watching. It has been an amazing feeling."
On who he's met:
"I've met Jerry West, and Oscar Robertson, and Clyde Drexler, and Dominique Wilkins. I even met Carl Lewis, one of my favorite athletes of all time, and many more. It's a crazy thing to be in this [situation] and to be able to meet so many famous people."
On where he will put all these trophies:
"My mom is pretty creative with all that, so I am pretty sure that she is [working out a place to put them]. I have a pretty small house in New York, so I don't even know if we are going to be able to fit them all in, to be honest with you. We are going to have to put them outside in a case, or something. But it is great, and I am sure she will find somewhere."
On the new haircut:
"I did. I got the haircut for the award. I had to clean it up, so [laughs]."
On not taking a suit to Houston:
"Well, I had my suit, and I hung it up on the door for just a second just to close my suitcase, and I left it in Provo. I had the coach's assistant ship it out overnight to me, so I had it for the awards ... It was still on my door handle at my house. But my roommates were there, and they were OK with it."
On whether he's engaged:
"Nope. I am not engaged. I have heard that many times, and so has Whitney. But we are not engaged. We are still dating and everything is fine, but we are not engaged yet."
On how long have the been dating:
"A year and five months, a year and a half, almost. So it has been quite awhile."
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