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Mike Sorensen: Is Jimmer Fredette the best to ever play in the state?

Published: Monday, Jan. 31 2011 12:16 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — After the past several days, I'm just about all Jimmered out. Everywhere you look, it's Jimmer this and Jimmer that. Newspapers, TV, talk radio shows, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Kevin Durrant — everybody's talking about BYU's sensational guard Jimmer Fredette.

Jimmermania has not only taken over the state, but the college basketball world. And of course, I'm perpetuating it all by writing a column about him today.

By now, we all know Fredette is a very talented player and it's looking like he'll be a first-round NBA Draft pick, perhaps even in the top half of the first round. It's also impossible not to like the kid, who is humble and unpretentious. Heck, even diehard Utah fans can't find a reason to dislike him other than the way he beats their team.

The question today is how Fredette will stack up with the greatest players ever to play college basketball in the state of Utah by the time he finishes his career in a couple of months.

The state's colleges have produced numerous players that have garnered national attention, including two national players of the year along with a bunch of all-Americans.

BYU's Danny Ainge (1981) and Utah's Andrew Bogut (2005) each earned the John Wooden Award as the nation's top player. Utah's Keith Van Horn and Andre Miller were both Wooden finalists (top five) and first-team all-Americans and BYU's Michael Smith made some all-America teams and was a first-round draft choice. Utah State's Jaycee Carroll ended up as the second-best scorer in the state's history.

Fredette is almost certain to be named a first-team all-American and right now is one of the top three candidates being mentioned for player of the year along with UConn's Kemba Walker and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger.

So how does Fredette rank among the top players who have ever played in Utah?

I'm willing to say Fredette may be the most exciting player to come out of the state with his uncanny ability to drop 30-footers and make those dipsy-doodle moves on his way to the basket.

But all-time best? Not quite.

There's Ainge, who was a four-year starter for BYU, averaging 21.1 points as a freshman and 24.4 as a senior. He also led his team to the NCAA Elite Eight, further than any Cougar team.

Van Horn was also a four-year starter who led the Utes to the Elite Eight as a senior. He is the state's all-time leading scorer with 2,542 points.

Miller was a first-team all-American who led his team to the NCAA Finals and Bogut was a consensus national player of the year who was a No. 1 draft choice.

A lot of younger people have probably never heard of Utah State forward Wayne Estes, who may have been the best college player ever to play in Utah. Tragically, he was killed in a freak accident midway through his senior season, when he was leading the nation with a 33.7 scoring average in 1965.

Then there's Billy McGill, who was in town over the weekend as part of Utah's 1960-61 Final Four team. McGill averaged 38.6 points as a senior and scored 2,321 points in just three seasons and was a three-time all-American.

Short of taking his team to the Final Four, it would be hard for Fredette to pass up any of these guys as the best-ever to play in Utah. However, he does have a decent chance to go out as the No. 1 all-time scorer.

Right now he has 2,139 points with a minimum of 11 games left (nine regular-season and two postseason). If he averages 27.6 points per game, he'll finish with 2,443 points. That would put him ahead of McGill, but short of Van Horn, Carroll and Ainge.

However, it's likely the Cougars will get past the first round of the MWC Tournament and probably get to the finals. That's two more games. It's also likely with a high seed, they'll win at least one NCAA game. That makes 14 more games. At his current 27.6 average, he would end up with 2,525, just ahead of Carroll and just behind Van Horn. If the Cougars win two NCAA games, he would get a 15th game and could pass Van Horn.

With two months still to go in the season, a lot can happen. Fredette may have five more 40-point-plus games. Perhaps he'll get in foul trouble for once in his life and only end up with only 12 some night. There's also the possibility he could get laid up by sickness or injury, heaven forbid.

Jimmer Fredette may not end up as the greatest college player to ever come out of the state. But if the Cougars can play well enough in the postseason, Fredette may just end up as the greatest scorer.

e-mail: sor@desnews.com

Utah's 2,000-point club

Keith Van Horn, Utah (1993-97), 2,542

Jaycee Carroll, Utah State (2003-07), 2,522

Danny Ainge, BYU (1977-81), 2,467

Billy McGill, Utah (1959-62), 2,321

Michael Smith, BYU (1983-89), 2,319

Devin Durrant, BYU (1978-84), 2,285

Jimmer Fredette, BYU (2007-2011), 2,139

Greg Grant, Utah State (1982-86), 2,127

Bruce Collins, Weber State (1976-80), 2,019

Wayne Estes, Utah State (1962-65), 2,001

Josh Grant, Utah (1988-93), 2,000

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