February 7, 2011
Jimmer Fredette, BYU superstar, clashes with modern American basketball. He delivers his thrills below rim level. He’s unable to defy gravity. He declines to hang on the rim.
But he has this skill, one that has become alarmingly rare in our country.
Fredette, who’s averaging 27.6 points, is a Great American Jump Shooter, following in the steps of Stephen Curry, Mark Price, “Downtown” Freddy Brown, World B. Free and Rick Mount.
Dunking is, no doubt, a blast to watch, but dunking has all but devoured basketball in the United States. Americans are obsessed with getting to the rim. It’s all about driving, all about flying.
Jimmer, a senior point guard, can drive and even reaches decent heights, but he’s special because his approach to the game is radical, at least by 2011 standards. He delivers his damage from the outer limits of the court. And I mean the outer limits.
In BYU’s first meeting with Air Force on Jan. 8, Falcons point guard Todd Fletcher made the mistake of taking his eyes off Jimmer, just for an instant. Jimmer launched a jumper from 35 feet.
This seemed ridiculous and hilarious except for one thing: He made it.
No doubt, Jimmer’s happily crazed approach is a hit. Fans are clamoring to see Fredette, which explains why Clune Arena will be sold out Wednesday night.
Falcons coach Jeff Reynolds shook his head when he considered the full house at Clune.
“I hope they’re cheering for Air Force and not cheering for Jimmer,” Reynolds said.
Keep hoping, Jeff. Yes, a couple of thousand diehard Air Force fans will be roaring, but the other 5,000 will be there to admire Jimmer. Let me make this prediction: He will not disappoint.
He’s already crafted a powerful success story. Jimmer led Glens Falls High School to consecutive trips to the New York state title game while scoring 2,404 points.
He played a short car ride away from such coaches as Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and Jim Calhoun at Connecticut.
Didn’t matter. The word on Jimmer was he lacked the overpowering athleticism required for success in the college game. The 2007 ESPN Scouting Report handed Fredette a 79 rating, barely above Division II level, and BYU and Siena were his only Division I offers.
Recruiters overlooked Fredette’s imagination and determination and, most of all, his shooting range. Jimmer’s visit to the Springs is a perfect time to remember college recruiting is not a science. Remember, recruiters once had no use for a high school quarterback from Chico, Calif. His name? Aaron Rodgers.
Still, recruiters were not completely blind. Jimmer is not an overwhelming athlete. I watched BYU battle Saturday against UNLV in Provo’s sold-out Marriott Center, and at times Fredette might have been the slowest player on the court.
And yet …
Defenders get tense the instant he crosses halfcourt. He’s dangerous in spots where other players don’t even think of shooting. His shot selection is mind-boggling. He shoots off-balance. He challenges entire teams on his joy rides to the basket. He shoots from absurd distance.
But his wild shots go in. Over and over, they drop. Jimmer’s sheer audaciousness is why crowds gather to watch. He is, at times, borderline insane in the risks he takes, which only adds to the fun.
This is why Jimmer-mania is sweeping the nation, even though he’s been banished to television obscurity on The mtn.
Listen, I enjoy basketball’s air shows, but the game is about much more than flying and dunking and shaking the rim.
It also can be about a kid from upstate New York who had this crazy vision. Jimmer, Great American Jump Shooter, believed he could score from anywhere against anybody in college basketball.
And he was right.