West Valley City • Jimmer Fredette knew he would be tempted to play for Team Fredette in The Basketball Tournament this weekend at the Maverik Center after leading the club to the semifinals of the $2 million winner-take-all event last year, so he took some drastic measures to keep himself off the court.
He left his basketball shoes home in Denver.
“It is not that I can’t play,” Fredette said. “I just decided not to.”
Instead, the 30-year-old former college basketball player of the year from BYU is coaching Team Fredette, along with his former coach with the Cougars, Dave Rose.
Third-seeded Team Fredette rallied from a 22-point deficit in the Salt Lake Regional opener late Thursday and upended No. 6 seed CitiTeam Blazers 99-96 behind 31 points from former Houston star Rob Gray and ex-Bowling Green star Jordon Crawford’s game-winning shot.
Team Fredette was eliminated Friday night, falling 83-80 to Team Challenge ALS. Earlier, No. 1 seed Eberlein Drive defeated No. 5 seed L.A. Cheaters 86-84.
“I am good [not playing],” Fredette said when he was told a few TF members volunteered to go to a store and buy him shoes when they were trailing badly at halftime. “This is their thing. They won the game. I mean, these guys we have are talented, talented players. We brought in these guards who can score the basketball and play. These guys are just as talented as anybody out there, and they got the camaraderie and all that.”
Said Crawford: “He’s more than welcome to join us.”
Fredette spoke publicly for the first time after Thursday’s thriller about why he abruptly left the Golden State Warriors’ summer league team earlier this month and why he decided to sign with the Greek team Panathinaikos B.C. of the EuroLeague, the top-tier European professional league. He said he left the Warriors’ entry in Las Vegas after two games so he could avoid injury and concentrate on talks with several overseas suitors.
“At this point of my career, I just felt like it was a really good, new challenge,” he said. “I have never played in the EuroLeague before. It is an amazing league, the second-best league in the world, I would say, behind the NBA. So it has some great, talented players. I know those games are big, and they are meaningful games.”
Fredette said he loved playing in the Chinese Basketball League the past three years, but was looking for a “new thing” when his brief time with the Phoenix Suns didn’t work out at the end of the 2018-19 NBA season.
“I am working out,” he said, noting that he departs for Greece on Aug. 18. “You have to try to prove yourself in this league now. It is a different thing, a different ball game. And Greece isn’t a bad place to live. My wife [Whitney] is excited about it.”
Fredette announced on Instagram last Monday that he signed a two-year contract with Panathinaikos B.C. Several outlets reported that team owner Dimitrios Giannalopoulos has wanted to sign the former Cougar for several years and finally outbid the Shanghai Sharks of the CBL to get him to Europe.
THE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
At the Maverik Center, West Valley City
No. 1 Eberlein Drive 86, No. 5 L.A. Cheaters 84
No. 2 Challenge ALS 83, No. 3 Team Fredette 80
No. 1 Eberlein Drive vs. No. 2 Challenge ALS, 7 p.m.
Another former BYU standout, Brandon Davies, was a first-team EuroLeague all-star with Zalgiris Kaunas last year and recently signed a two-year deal with another team in the league, FC Barcelona. Davies attended Thursday’s game, called Fredette a “rookie” and talked to him about what the league is like.
“I love what I have seen so far,” Fredette said. “The fans are passionate and crazy about their teams, which is really fun. It will be a little more of a college atmosphere [than China] in those games. To play against Brandon will be fun. He called me a rookie, but I am still older than he is.”
Rose said Fredette was “aggressive on the bench” as a coach Thursday night, and “loves to get after the refs [after] he never said a word to the refs when he played.”
Fredette said he probably won’t pursue coaching when he’s finished playing.
“It is too nerve-wracking for me,” he said. “I don’t like being out there and not being able to play. It is hard. I see what coach [Rose] has been going through the past 30 years of his life. But he’s gotten used to it.”
This story will be updated after Friday’s games.