BYU basketball: Jimmer Fredette's rise is no surprise to those who knew him

By Pete Thamel

New York Times News Service

Published: Sunday, Feb. 27 2011 11:00 p.m. MST

PROVO — From the straight-to-YouTube 3-pointers to an endless reel of highlight shows to knockoff T-shirts, Jimmer Mania has spread across the country. But it is hard to pinpoint the moment when Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette transformed from basketball star to national sensation, from fan favorite to cult hero, from boy next door to phenomenon.

For those who knew Jimmer before he became the Jimmer, the moment that best crystallizes his sun-kissed senior season came when Fredette effortlessly swished a shot from one step inside halfcourt in a game against Utah.

"That's the shot that tells you who he is because he doesn't even react," said Jim Hart, who coached Fredette in summer basketball with the Albany City Rocks. "He doesn't smile or pump a fist. He's more likely to pump his fist when someone else hits a shot; he knows that he's going to do it."

The 6-foot-2 Fredette, who leads the nation in scoring (27.2 points a game) and out-of-Provo-ZIP-code 3-pointers, finally got his shot on national television Saturday when No. 7 BYU traveled to San Diego to face No. 6 San Diego State, defeating the Aztecs 80-67. That CBS televised the game instead of a cable network is perhaps the ultimate testament to Jimmer Mania.

But for those who saw him growing up in Glens Falls, N.Y., the country is late hitching up to the bandwagon. Fredette lit up Albany-area elementary schools, hit 49 of 50 3-pointers in workouts and lit up convicts in prison games.

"Everyone else is surprised, but I knew he'd be a big-time scorer like that," said the Penn State senior Talor Battle, who is from Albany. "I always knew he had it in him."

Glens Falls is known more as a whistle-stop town for hoops stars during the New York state tournament than as an area that cultivates its own stars. Fredette fondly recalls daylong tournament binges, watching everyone from Kenny Anderson to Stephon Marbury and Julius Hodge to Sebastian Telfair, all while nursing $5 at the concession stand.

Fredette's path from Glens Falls came full circle this season when BYU played Vermont at the Civic Center, with fans filling the arena to the rafters. Jimmer's path to college stardom began on a concrete slab basketball court behind the family home. His brother, T.J., who molded and mentored Jimmer, recalled a home video where the 4-year-old Jimmer kicked the fence out of frustration after T.J. blocked his shot. But when T.J., who is seven years older, backed off to let him shoot, Jimmer called him back over to guard him closely.

"If he lost, he'd cry he was so mad, it would ruin his day and week," T.J. Fredette said. "It was an ultimate high to win and ultimate low to lose. That's unusual to see in a kid at such a young age."

Fredette's first buzz-worthy game came in eighth grade when he scored 51 points in a double-overtime loss to the Albany City Rocks. Fredette carried a team made up mostly of local teammates against a cast of Albany's best players.

"He looked like a little fat kid, and he was absolutely destroying an inner-city team," said Hart, the opposing coach, who eventually lured Fredette to his team.

Battle recalled hitting the winning shot that day after Fredette fouled out, and it started a friendly rivalry and strong friendship. If Fredette saw that Battle scored 40, he wanted 41. If Battle saw that Fredette's Glens Falls High School team won by 15, he wanted his Bishop Maginn High School team to win by 16. Hart said that within the tight-knit Albany basketball circles, Battle and Fredette became the area's version of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Local folks would argue for hours over who was better.

"I think it raised both of our games to the next level," Fredette said. "It made us what we are today."

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