"T.J. is very creative," says Jimmer. "He created a lot of drills to improve my game."
They performed a variety of drills at the local Mormon church (Al was given a key to the building). One of the drills, which they called "the gauntlet," required Jimmer to dribble the ball down one of the church's dark, narrow hallways toward the foyer, where a single lamp provided the only light.
"It made me work on ball control without looking at the ball," says Jimmer. "I had to keep my head up to see the light, and I had to keep the ball close to my body. I'd dribble between my legs, behind my back, crossover, spin, everything."
How did such a drill ever occur to T.J.? "One day in church I was walking down the hallway and thinking, 'How can I challenge Jimmer? He's mastered all the drills.' Then someone turned the light off, and it hit me. It was almost pitch black. All I could see was the light ahead in the foyer. And the hallway was narrow so he had to keep ball close to his body."
In another favorite drill, performed in the church gym, T.J. required Jimmer to dribble into the lane and go up for a shot while his brother pushed and struck him. T.J. demanded that Jimmer finish the shot and make five of them before they quit.
"It was about body control and getting into bigger guys," says Jimmer. "I do that today, and I'm able to finish. I'm not intimidated going into big guys. I can penetrate and finish at the rim. It doesn't matter how the shot looks. It might be awkward, but I'm able to get it off."
The Fredettes finished off these practice sessions — which they did two or three days a week — with a free-throw drill. They made a game out of it — one free throw to win or lose the region championship, one free throw for the state championship, one free throw for the national championship, then the world championship. T.J. did his best to distract his brother as he shot, throwing a ball up as his brother shot, hitting him with a ball just as the shot was leaving his hand, throwing a ball near his face.
"T.J. was a huge part of my success," says Jimmer. "He saw that I loved the game, and he loved having me around for some reason. It was great. We got along great. It was a big part of my growth."
"I saw an NBA future, probably when he was in seventh or eighth grade," says T.J. "He always played at a level that was so much higher than other kids his age. I saw his competitiveness and desire to win, and I saw his God-given gifts, his hand-eye coordination and his strength. Every piece of the puzzle was there."
Team Jimmer also included Al, who went to the gym with his son, as well, and their maternal uncle, Lee Taff, a professional personal trainer who augmented Fredette's development with weight training and various agility drills.
Perhaps the finishing touch on Jimmer's basketball education was, of all things, prison competition. When Jimmer turned 18, T.J. arranged three pickup game against inmates at the Mount McGregor and Great Meadow correctional facilities.
As T.J. describes it, "I knew it would be good for him. It's intimidating. Three hundred inmates watch. They go crazy, and they're right on top of you, screaming at you. You walk in through the yard and the inmates are lined up in this huge building looking out their cell windows screaming at you and pounding on the windows. After that, you can't be afraid of anything. They were big strong guys and they wanted to win. They were very physical, but not dirty."
By the time he enrolled at Glens Falls High School, Jimmer was a star-in-the-making. He broke into the school's starting lineup as a freshman and went on to become the sixth highest scorer in New York history, with 2,404 points. He was named first-team all-state as a junior and senior. He averaged 28.8 points per game in his senior season, leading his team to the state finals. He was also an all-state wide receiver as a junior, but gave up the sport after signing early with BYU.
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