PROVO — Dave Rose is often asked about the expectations he had five years ago when he signed Jimmer Fredette, a little-known guard from a small high school in upstate New York, to play basketball for BYU.
Rose, beginning his sixth season as the Cougars head coach today, consistently refuses to shortchange his recruiting proficiency with an answer similar to the one he gave last week when asked the question again.
"Every recruit that we sign, we expect to be an all-league player when we sign them. Anything after that really kind of depends on how early in their career that happens.
"With Jimmer, when you become first-team all-league in this league as a sophomore and then you have a great junior year, you have a chance to get some national awards. But this is pretty impressive. I mean this is very impressive. I'm impressed," Rose said of the many preseason All-American honors that Fredette has garnered.
Others, however, insist that Fredette's level of prominence at BYU is surprising, especially considering that BYU's only competition for the Glens Falls, N.Y., product was really Sienna — even though Fredette set several school, league and state scoring records in high school.
"I didn't have any problem with it because I knew I was from a smaller school and that I wouldn't be heavily recruited," Fredette said. "Plus, I still knew I could play with all those other players."
While Fredette may be exceeding the expectations of some, he's right on course with his own. His determination, drive and confidence are big reasons why he begins his final season at BYU tonight, when the Cougars host Fresno State in the Marriott Center, as one of the nation's most recognized point guards.
"This is exactly where I always wanted to be and where I thought I'd be. I always had a goal to get better every year and to always have an impact on a team. In my mind, this is where I always saw myself being. I think that's what has always helped me be so driven," he said.
Fredette is coming off a season in which he averaged more than 22 points and nearly five assists per game. He scored more than 30 in a game eight times last year, including the school-record 49 he poured on Arizona and the 37 he dumped on Florida in a first-round NCAA Tournament win.
He's projected to be a first-round NBA draft pick next summer. To Fredette, that's just another step on his planned-out basketball journey.
"I've only ever seen myself doing that. It's the only occupation I have ever seen myself doing," he said.
Fredette is at BYU partly because it's the program he targeted early in high school. He is LDS (father Al is Mormon, mother Kay is not) and his sister Lindsey (now married and living in Taylorsville) ventured west a few years earlier to attend BYU and adapted well to the transition.
It was at a BYU summer camp where Rose and his staff first saw Fredette play.
"They didn't know anything about me, especially since I came from a small town all the way across the country. But they liked what they saw and started to fly back to watch me play football and basketball. They followed me in my AAU competition and then offered me after my junior year," Fredette said.
Accepting BYU's offer was an easy decision.
"I just felt good when I came out, about the team, the coaching staff and the direction the program was going and my chances of being able to come in and play right away," he said.
Among those not surprised by Fredette's accomplishments are his early BYU teammates — Nick Martineau and Chris Collinsworth, who witnessed Fredette score at will on BYU's veteran players in his first summer of open-gym games in Provo.
"Right there and then I knew he was going to be really good," Collinsworth said.
Martineau, Fredette's first BYU roommate, immediately saw something special.
"I knew he had a lot of talent, but he's just exploded with it," Martineau said.
Did BYU's coaches see the same things early on?
"I think they had faith in the beginning that I'd be good, but I don't think they knew that I could become the type of player that I am right now," Fredette said.
That type of player is one with an offensive arsenal that teams struggle to defend, and one who compliments backcourt mate Jackson Emery perfectly.
"He's really good at one-on-one basketball, but he's also really good at responding to a double team and finding the open guy," Emery said. "He's fun to watch because he's unexpecting. You never know what he's going to do."
It's been well chronicled how Fredette toughened his skills in high school by playing in weekend games against jail inmates. He's also benefited from the services of his uncle Lee Taft, a respected personal trainer in New York. Actually, he credits most of his success to family support, especially from older brother T. J. — who recognized the potential in little brother early on.
Fredette learned a lot about his game after last season when he briefly tested the NBA waters and worked out for several NBA teams. He believes he silenced critics who claim his defensive skills are a liability to an NBA career.
"They saw that I can play defense at that level. ... I've been working and training as hard as I've ever done before, so I can stay in a defensive stance longer and move laterally quicker. I'm in the best condition I've ever been in," he said.
Another confidence builder came last summer when Fredette spent two weeks at the USA Basketball Camp in Las Vegas, practicing and scrimmaging with the nation's top college players and the NBA's top point guards.
"That all helped settle him down to understand that he is one of the premier guards in the country," Rose said.
That label also means the Cougars will be a marked team, and Fredette a marked man, every time BYU takes the court.
"I think one of the things that Jimmer's really excited about is the talent that he has around him and how those guys will be really important to his success," Rose said.
With the Cougars shedding the monkey off their backs with last year's first-round NCAA Tournament win, their goals are higher this season. Fredette wants to leave BYU with a Mountain West Conference Tournament title under his belt, and a postseason trip to at least the Sweet 16.
"I'm excited to get this season started. I think we could have an extremely good team, maybe the best since I've been here at BYU," he said.
Cougars on the air
BYU vs. Fresno State
Today, 7 p.m.
TV: None Radio: 1160 AM 102.7 FMFredette's records
* Holds scoring mark at Glens Falls High with 2,404 career points
* 7th on New York's all-time prep scoring list
* 1st team All-MWC as a sophomore at BYU11 comments on this story
* 1st team All-MWC, District VIII player of the year as a junior
* Named on five All-American teams as junior
* Member of 2010 USA Basketball's Select Team
* Scored a BYU-record 49 pts at Arizona on Dec. 29, 2009
* Scored 751 pts in 2009-10, 4th all-time for one season
* Has scored 1,531 career points at BYU, 11th all time
* MWC preseason player of the year in 2009 and 2010
* Named 1st team on 6 preseason 2010-11 All-American teamsHeady
TextCougars on the air
BYU vs. Fresno State
Today, 7 p.m.
Radio: KSL 1160 AM 102.7 FM