LAS VEGAS — Even though much of the talk about BYU guard Jimmer Fredette since the end of last season has focused on his potential as a future NBA player, there's something Fredette wants to enjoy and experience first — his senior season as a Cougar.
"I'm really anxious for it to get here," Fredette said Wednesday from the USA Men's Basketball camp at the Cox Arena in Las Vegas. "It's going to be my senior year, and college doesn't get any better than that. Our team is coming back with a lot of hype, and there are a lot of good things that this team should be able to accomplish, and I'm really excited for that. I can't wait."
Certainly, working out for NBA teams prior to withdrawing from this year's NBA Draft and practicing this week with the USA Basketball Men's National and USA Basketball Men's Select teams is giving Fredette a good idea of how he compares with the other top players in the country and gives him a better idea of what he needs to improve on to someday become a successful professional.
But Fredette, one of 20 collegians on the USA Men's Select Team, the team that scrimmages against the NBA-player-filled USA Men's National team, says he's also gaining experience, knowledge, skills and confidence that will help him become a better player for his final season at BYU.
"All the things I'm working on to help me play in the NBA are going to help our team at BYU, and they're things I just need to continue to work on to become a better overall basketball player," he said. "I'm just working hard. That's really what it all comes down to. I'm doing the most I possibly can to improve and get better and take on new challenges."
Just being labeled as one of the nation's best, an honor bestowed by being picked for the Select Team, and scrimmaging and socializing with the other top collegians and NBA players in the camp is a real confidence booster in itself, Fredette said.
"It's a great experience basketball-wise and should help me to get better. It's great to see what it's like to be in an atmosphere like this on the floor and off the floor, as well. It's definitely different when you're with some NBA guys and how people treat you. It's fun to hang around them, see that atmosphere and kind of experience what it's like," Fredette said.
But there's no doubt about the fact that he is competing this week at a level higher than ever before.
"Obviously, I'm going up against the best players in college basketball and top players in the world at every practice. And when you're playing with the best players, you have to elevate your game and become a better player, or you don't last out there.
"The caliber of players, how athletic and how quick they are, make it so you can't always do the kind of things you can against other players in college. So it's great to be able to have this experience to help me prepare for that and learn to adjust for that.
"And it's fun to be a student of the game when watching the NBA guys out there and see all the things that they can do. Hopefully, I can work on some of those things and eventually be able to do some of those same things as well," Fredette said.
Through two of four days of practice at the USA Men's Basketball Camp, Fredette says he's played well, doesn't feel intimidated and has proven that he belongs. In a scrimmage Tuesday, he went up against NBA guards Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Stephen Curry while not giving up the ball through 94 feet of defensive pressure and getting into the lane a couple of times.
"It's fun to play against those guys and show them what you can do. If you play well and go at them hard, they get a lot of respect for you and respect your game. They say things like 'way to go' and stuff like that, and that's pretty neat to hear," Fredette said.
Select Team and Washington Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar is impressed by Fredette's strength and his ability to withstand the physical play. He already knew about Fredette's other attributes.
"He knows how to play. He's definitely dangerous when he gets into the lane, because he can make a lot of things happen," Romar said.
Even though some feel Fredette's defensive abilities are questionable, assistant Select Team and Villanova coach Jay Wright doesn't see it as a weakness.
"He doesn't have that quickness and athleticism as some of these guys, but he's crafty," Wright said. "I really like his game. He's smart enough to play an intuitive enough style of defense that I really think he can play at the next level."
Fredette's experience this week is a taste of the kind of notoriety that lies ahead for the upcoming season. He'll likely begin the year with a load of preseason honors and the weight of the expectations that go with them. But he's not too worried about the pressure of living up those expectations.
"It's going to be fun," he said. "I'm really looking forward to it."