SALT LAKE CITY — If you saw Jimmer Fredette decertify, discredit and disrespect Arizona on Saturday, it was hard not to project ahead. Imagine what he could do in the pros.
Just picture him taking apart Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Derrick Rose. Imagine the ways he could torture Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo.
Fredette is a fine scorer, a headache to defend. Others must agree, because Tuesday he was named national player of the week.
Many think he's the best BYU player since Danny Ainge, though that's debatable when you consider Greg Kite and Fred Roberts each went on to play 13 years in the NBA and Shawn Bradley 12. Devin Durrant, Andy Toolson, Rafael Araujo, Mike Smith and Travis Hansen also had a cup of decaf in the NBA.
But the way Fredette is playing, he's looking like he'll dominate in the pros.
OK, at least the Euro-pros.
If he were going to become an NBA star, he'd probably be there now.
As the saying goes, if you can play, why stay?
It's hard for non-scouts to evaluate players, especially those who play in smaller conferences. They stay longer and get smarter, sometimes rising near the top of college basketball. By that time, there's not as much competition as there should be.
In last June's NBA Draft, none of the top 22 picks stayed beyond their junior season (Fredette is a senior) and just seven of 22 even stayed through their junior year (one played in Europe). In an NBAdraft.net mock draft for 2011, it has only one senior among the top 23 and doesn't even name a junior until it gets to No. 12.
The first five players it expects to be drafted are currently college freshmen.
Only four of the last year's 15 All-NBA players played more than two years in college.
Ah, youth. As Miami journalist Dave Barry wrote, "You can only be young once. But you can always be immature."
In any case, fans often overrate the potential of players who stay longer. See Luke Nevill for Exhibit A. The 7-foot-2 former Ute was the MWC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, his senior season, but hasn't played a minute in the NBA.
Others who rose in the college ranks but didn't make much of a dent in the NBA:
Hanno Mottola: Played four years at Utah, but spent only two years in the NBA.
Josh Grant: Spent four years at Utah, but only one season in the NBA.
Britton Johnsen: Four years at Utah, but just 26 games in the NBA.
A couple of nice outcomes were Michael Doleac, who spent four years at Utah and 10 years in the NBA after being drafted 12th overall, and Andre Miller, who played four years at Utah and was drafted eighth overall. Miller is in his 12th season in the NBA.
Keith Van Horn played four years at Utah and was drafted No. 2. He produced a nice 11-year NBA career, but never made an All-Star team. Andrew Bogut (Utah, two years) and Bradley (BYU, one year) didn't wait around long to see how good they could have been in college.
Durrant: Four years at BYU. First pick of second round; 63 games in the NBA.
Smith: Four years at BYU, 13th pick in the draft, three seasons in the NBA, averaging five points.
Toolson: Four years at BYU, 60 games in the NBA.
Mekeli Wesley: four years at BYU but didn't play in the NBA.
Lee Cummard: Four years at BYU, hasn't played in the NBA.
Trent Plaisted: Four years at BYU, no NBA experience.
Rafael Araujo: Two years in junior college, two at BYU. Eighth pick overall in NBA draft, played three uneventful years in the NBA.
Ainge, Kite and Roberts had long NBA careers after playing four years, but that was an era when almost everyone stayed that long.
Utah State has numerous fine college players, but it's been decades since anyone from there stuck in the NBA.
There's a reason Fredette withdrew from the draft after declaring himself eligible last spring: He wasn't expecting to get drafted high. Will he get drafted next summer? Probably in the late first round. Will he play in the league? Likely.
Just don't expect to see him on an All-Star team.
Those people left on the first bus out of town.