Next up for Jimmer: The NBA's great unknown
Jimmer Fredette has never been here before. He feels different. The world doesn't look the same. All the records, chants and long-range bombs are suddenly meaningless.
At Brigham Young University, Fredette owned collegiate basketball. Local and national media fawned over him. Cougar fans drooled, dreamed, taunted and bragged. But that was another time, another place.
Now, Fredette is just another NBA Draft prospect. His future and professional standing are as uncertain as the state of a weak 2011 NBA Draft class that goes under the microscope this week in Chicago during the annual combine. Is Fredette the next Adam Morrison or the next Stephen Curry? Fredette's shooting for the latter. And as his life changes and his game is scrutinized to a degree that would make anyone not fit for the challenge flinch, the young man known to most as just Jimmer understands that nothing about his pro future will be given or guaranteed.
"I always worked hard and was focused, but this is different," said the 22-year-old Fredette, whose 28.9 average points led the nation in scoring last season. "I want basketball to be my profession and livelihood. Now I am competing against the very best players in the world and have to succeed."
It's easier said than done, and Fredette knows it. Which is why he returned to work just one day after receiving the prestigious Wooden Award as the 2011 men's Player of the Year. Fredette placed a call to longtime strength and conditioning coach Lee Taft, who is also a family friend.
"He just feels comfortable with me, because I've been training him for so long and he knows his best interest is always at heart," Taft said.
The duo spent three-plus weeks in Provo, building Fredette up as he recovered from a left calf injury that he suffered during BYU's Sweet 16 loss to Florida a defeat that ended the Cougars' season and left the top amateur basketball player in the country bloodied and humbled.
By week two, Jimmer was back. Fredette sped through agility drills that focused upon defensive positioning and lateral movement, while adding muscle weight during three-a-day drills that left him exhausted. As the second week gave way to the third, Fredette finally started to feel like a pro. He no longer had to worry about school, classes or collegiate pressure. His thoughts and dreams zeroed in on the draft. Fredette wants to live up to his name and make his family proud. As for the doubters? Fuel for the fire.
"A big part of my motivation comes from showing people that I am a more complete basketball player than some give me credit for," said Fredette, who has been ranked as high as a lottery pick in the draft and as low as a late first-rounder due to what some perceive are the limitations of his offensive-oriented game.
He added: "I know there are questions about my athleticism and ability to defend, but I have worked extra hard to be able to dispel those ideas."
Taft believes that Fredette is ready. Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, whose team holds the Nos. 3 and 12 picks in the draft, praised Fredette's accomplishments after Utah moved up in Tuesday's lottery.
But what about the league he is trying make a living in?
"He now has an opportunity to even work harder, and you know what kind of competitive drive and work ethic he has," said Ryan Blake, director of NBA scouting. "He's going to come into these workouts, and I think he's really going to show some good stuff. I think he can play point guard and a combo point. I think he's really going to show that's he's really going to be a great point guard."
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Jimmer Fredette file
2010-11 stats average • 28.9 points, 4.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 45.2 percent FG, 39.6 percent 3-pt
Working on • Lateral movement and defensive positioning; adding a floater and mid-range pull-up shot to his offensive game