In the competition for the title of Glens Falls, N.Y.'s "Most Famous Citizen," Jimmer Fredette is turning it into a rout — from 2,200 miles away.
TV cooking star Rachel Ray was born in Glens Falls, but was raised and lives elsewhere. Pro wrestling star "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan was born and grew up in Glens Falls, and is still very popular amongst the locals, but he now resides in South Carolina. Former NHL player/coach and ESPN hockey analyst/mulleteer Barry Melrose maintains a residence in Glens Falls, but he's still just a Canadian transplant.
Preseason All-American Jimmer Fredette has assumed a role as the public pride of Glens Falls, and the town's favorite son makes his return on Wednesday in what's being billed as the "Hometown Classic." I prefer to think of BYU's neutral-court meeting with Vermont as the "Jimmer Game."
"It's unbelievable," said Fredette. "I just didn't think it was going to ever happen. I thought I was done playing in Glens Falls for the rest of my life."
As a high school star and two-time all-state selection for the Glens Falls Indians, Fredette set all-time school and section career scoring records, and he ended up sixth on the New York state prep career scoring list. Yet, Fredette's decision to play at BYU deprived most local supporters of the chance to ever see their hero play at the next level in person, let alone see him play a game back in his hometown.
"When you get a player from a small town that doesn't have a university in the city, it almost never happens," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "This is really, really unique. We've taken guys 'back home' before, but not with this fanfare."
Fredette and the Cougars will have met the area media upon the team's late Monday night arrival in Albany, with Jimmer scheduled to speak today at a Glens Falls High School assembly. Another media obligation is scheduled for tonight after the team's closed practice.
"If we would have allowed Jimmer to do everything he was requested to do, I don't know if he would have made it to the game," Rose said.
Ah, yes, the game. Once the cheers have died down upon Fredette's introduction at the 5,000-seat Glens Falls Civic Center, it will be time to play. Fredette says he will feel no extra pressure to perform in a game that is basically all about him.
"(The fans) know how I play, they know my game, they watched me throughout high school," Fredette said. "I'm not going in there trying to score a certain number of points or anything. I'm just going to play my game and do whatever the team gives me. If it's scoring, it's scoring. If not, then we want to win a game, and I think that's what the fans ultimately want: They want us to win."
The Vermont Catamounts will be in the unusual position of playing a game 90 minutes from their campus in front of a sold-out crowd supporting the team from two time zones away.
"Everybody's a BYU fan out there right now, and they're extremely excited for the game. There is going to be a lot of support for us, and it's going to be just like a home game," Fredette said. "Hopefully we'll have a great time, and the fans will enjoy it, and we'll enjoy it, and we'll be able to get a win."
Rose knows that despite the excitement of the night, and the special nature of this week, BYU has an unblemished record and a national ranking on the line, and no amount of nostalgia will compensate for a subpar showing.
"I addressed the team, just to let them know how important this (Vermont) game is, and not just because we're going home for Jimmer," said Rose. "This is really important for our team. Jimmer's going to have to deal with a lot of things that he normally doesn't have to deal with, but the rest of us just need to go back there and play like we play. We're trying to approach this like any other game we play, trying to go and get a win."
By getting Jimmer Fredette to play one more game back home, it's already a win for the fans of Glens Falls.
Greg Wrubell is the radio play-by-play "Voice of the Cougars," and hosts BYU Football and Basketball Coaches' Shows on KSL Newsradio and KSL 5 Television. Wrubell's blog "Cougar Tracks" can be found at byu.ksl.com. "Behind the Mic" is published every Tuesday during the BYU Football and Basketball seasons. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org