Thursday, March 18, 2010
Fredette not conventional, just 'amazing'
By Pat Forde
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Before every game, Jimmer Fredette listens to a rap song. The artist is his big brother, T.J., perhaps this nation's only Mormon rapper. The subject matter is their lives growing up in Glens Falls, N.Y.
The title of the song: "Amazing."
Thursday afternoon at the Ford Center, Amazing happened.
Jimmer Fredette scored 37 points to lead Brigham Young past Florida in a silly-good NCAA tournament opener, 99-92 in double overtime. A kid who grew up watching Drew Nicholas and Bryce Drew hitting epic NCAA tournament shots had his turn, rising up on rubbery legs to hit two huge 3s in the second OT to knock out the Gators. A guy deemed too slow and too shaky as a ball handler by the elite-level college teams launched his drive to be the Stephen Curry of this year's March Madness.
And when it was over and he'd done the national TV interview, Fredette ran straight to the second row of seats behind the BYU bench and hugged his mom, his dad, a friend from home and T.J.
"You did it, baby," T.J. told him.
Big brother has been watching over Jimmer all his life. T.J. is seven years older, and played something of an Earl Woods role in cultivating Jimmer's game.
He had a drill called The Gantlet -- Jimmer dribbling a basketball down a darkened hallway, and T.J. jumping out of a doorway to try to knock it away. He played Jimmer in no-mercy pickup games on the hoop at the Fredettes' house, knocking him around constantly. He took 18-year-old Jimmer, their dad and a couple of other friends to play pickup games at a couple of upstate New York prisons -- Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock and Mount McGregor Prison in Saratoga -- against the inmates. He had Jimmer sign a contract promising to do whatever it took to fulfill his basketball potential, and Jimmer posted it above his bed.
"My brother has a creative mind," Jimmer said. "He's thought of so many things to help my game."
Thursday, Fredette's gloriously unconventional game was on full display. There were the late 3s that put away Florida -- but a guy with a drop-dead shooter's reputation scored the vast majority of his baskets on drives, lunges, head fakes and an ambidextrous array of scoops that flummoxed the Florida defense. The Gators played Fredette roulette -- getting up on the junior point guard outside and not helping on his drives to prevent dishes to open 3-point shooters -- and wound up busting.
BYU backup guard Michael Loyd was certainly the unexpected hero of the day for the Cougars, scoring 26 points when he came in averaging 4.6. But once again Fredette was the leading man, with his low-altitude 37 points coming from well below the rim and way back in time.
The scooped layups from belt level are another product of Fredette's upbringing, trying to get off shots as a youngster against T.J. and his friends in the backyard.
"I had to put it up quick and it was the only way to get it up without getting it blocked," Fredette said. "It's kind of an old-school thing. My dad [Al] shoots that shot."
Fredette kept shooting it -- and making it -- against the array of Gators guards Billy Donovan threw at him. Trying to check Fredette might be worth a spot on "Dirty Jobs," it's gotten so hard.
Fredette actually was right at his postseason average Thursday, adding this 37 to the 75 points he scored in two games in the Mountain West Conference tournament.
"It's funny," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "You don't ever really expect him to miss."
|Jimmer Fredette received a well-deserved pat on the back from coach Dave Rose after BYU's first-round win over Florida.|
Fact is, Fredette missed plenty Thursday -- 13 field goal attempts, five from 3-point range, and even two surprising free throws in the late going while playing 46 withering minutes. But when the Cougars absolutely, positively needed baskets in the second OT to avoid a fourth straight first-round loss, a fatigued Fredette rose to the pressurized occasion.
"You're playing for your life," Fredette said. "It's one-and-done at this point.
So I was like, 'It's time to go.'"
There he went. The first of his double-OT 3s came at the top of the key with 2:48 left and BYU trying not to lose a lead yet again. (The Cougars coughed up a 13-point lead in the final nine minutes of regulation.) Then, with the lead hacked back down to four again, he rose up and cashed another one over 6-foot-9 Vernon Macklin with 1:22 remaining.
That pretty well ended the game and launched the Fredette Story onto a national stage. He's been great all season -- lighting up Arizona for 49 and TCU for 45 while averaging nearly 22 points per game -- and already has said he will put his name into the NBA draft just to get feedback on his status. But all the big games and big shots have happened in a Mountain Time Zone vacuum.
Now everyone got to see what the kid can do. And the kid got to live out his March Madness dream.
"I dreamed about this as a young child," Fredette said.
So did Jimmer Fredette's big brother. Watching him star in a fairly epic NCAA tournament game, then celebrate with his family -- that was Amazing.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
|The Gators had no answer for Fredette, who scored 37 points in the Cougars' double-overtime win.|