GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Jimmer Fredette left this tiny, blue-collar community and headed west to BYU more than three years ago, already a local legend. People in the city would fill the gym at Glens Falls High School to watch Fredette, a prolific shooter who set scoring records and racked up more than 2,400 points and first-team all-state status during his high school career. Community pride swelled the day in 2007 when locals wearing red packed the Glens Falls Civic Center, only to see Fredette and his Indians fall in the state championship game.
Now, they venture to local watering holes to watch Fredette and BYU on satellite television or follow every jump shot on the Internet, turning this city of 14,500 into Cougar Country east.
But Fredette Madness has reached a fevered pitch in this upstate hamlet this week. The prodigious son has returned home.
Fredette and BYU (8-0) will take on Vermont tonight in the same arena where Fredette played his final high school game, just a little more than a mile from Glens Falls High. A standing-room crowd of about 6,300 is expected. And even though Glens Falls is just 25 miles or so from the Vermont border, the Catamounts (6-1) will have no regional advantage.
"Everyone who can get to the game is going to go to the game," said Steve Philion, who works at a local golf course where the restaurant fills up on game nights as locals watch Fredette on TV. "The people who had a close relationship with the family, of course, are really psyched up."
The Civic Center seats again will be awash in red and black, spectators wearing the colors of the Indians. One of them will be Chip Corlew, assistant principal and athletic director at the high school.
"It's a great day to be part of Glens Falls nation," he said. "We all saw him in high school, and he was such a great player. We've all seen him now. But to have him in our own backyard and our own city and the Civic Center, it's just an unbelievable opportunity for our community. It's hard for me to even put it in words."
Familiar faces — hundreds of family, friends and former teammates of Fredette's — will fill the stands in Vermont's "home game."
Others expected on hand include Danny Ainge, a BYU graduate and the director of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics.
Fredette is a fixture in his hometown, returning often. He works out at the school and takes part in its summer camps, Corlew said.
Jimmer — he's referred to by just one name here ?— embodies the phrase "hometown hero."
"It's such a love affair," Corlew said.
Glens Falls councilman Ben Driscoll sat in the offices at City Hall in the quaint brick downtown and talked about watching Fredette blossom from a pudgy kid into an All-American. In Driscoll's role as city liaison to the Civic Center, he'll be responsible for greeting the teams and welcoming them to Glens Falls. He's delighted the city's hardwood can host Fredette one more time.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to recognize a fine young man who has worked awfully hard to get where he is and represents the perfect face of Glens Falls," Driscoll said.
On Tuesday, some took the time to fast forward their minds to just what it might be like at tip-off time when they hear Fredette announced.
"It's going to be bone chilling," Driscoll said.
Glens Falls is billing the game as the Hometown Classic and has built the evening around locals. Area veterans organizations will present the colors, a 2010 Glens Falls graduate will sing the national anthem, and local entertainers — including Fredette's brother, T.J. — will perform at halftime.
David Strader, a 1973 Glens Falls High School alumnus, will call the game for CBS College Sports. City leaders are using it as a chance to market Glens Falls through commercials to potential businesses.
But the spotlight definitely will be on Fredette, and he won't wilt under the pressure, said Mike Mender, assistant to the mayor, who has known Jimmer since he was a boy.5 comments on this story
"He's played under a variety of situations," Mender said. If he's not hitting his shots, he's found other ways to contribute.
Regardless of whether Fredette scores five points, 50 or closer to his season average of 22.3, he will give fans a night they'll never forget — just as he has never forgotten them.
"He's a good young man ... who will always know and remember where he came from," Driscoll said. "When he's on a box of Wheaties, he will still have Glens Falls in his heart."
Cougars on the air
No. 18 BYU (8-0) vs. Vermont (6-1)
Today, 5 p.m.
Glens Falls Civic Center
TV: CBS College Sports
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM