Doug Robinson: Jimmer Fredette, other Cougar stars aided by older brothers

Published: Wednesday, March 23 2011 10:00 p.m. MDT

BYU's Jimmer Fredette has a laugh with former NBA great Reggie Miller after practice at the New Orleans Arena on Wednesday.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — In this the Season of Jimmer, let's give a salute to brothers. Or, more accurately, big brothers. After all, as everyone knows, there would be no Jimmer without T.J., his big brother. Jimmer might be, well, just another Jim, if T.J. hadn't pushed him to greatness.

He convinced him to sign a homemade contract that committed him to basketball dreams and led him through years of custom-made special drills to hone his skills.

"T.J. was a huge part of my success," says Jimmer, who will lead BYU against Florida in today's Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. " ... It was a big part of my growth."

But you already know all this if you've followed Jimmermania. What you might not realize is that his story is not original.

Do you know what's the common denominator of the top four scorers in BYU history — Jimmer Fredette (2,567 points), Danny Ainge (2,467), Michael Smith (2,319) and Devin Durrant (2,285)?

Let Durrant answer the question: "I would suggest it is that each had an older brother or brothers that beat on them, inspired them and pushed them. They also opened doors for their younger siblings."

Ainge battled not one but two older brothers, Doug and David, in intense games in the yard that were about as friendly as an Israel-Arab border skirmish.

Smith was pushed around by his older brother Clark.

Durrant survived regular duels with his older brother Matt.

The younger brothers were pushed around and pummeled, but they proved to be the real beneficiaries. All of them went on to athletic careers that far outstripped their older brothers' successes.

Fredette is a frontrunner to win the win national Player of the Year honors and has become a national sensation, averaging a nation-leading 28 points a game.

Ainge is the only high school athlete ever to be named first-team All-American in three sports (football, basketball, baseball) and went on to become the 1981 national Player of the Year at BYU and then a Major League Baseball player and an NBA all-star.

Smith, a prep All-American in football (quarterback) and basketball, was a BYU All-American and the first-round pick of the Boston Celtics in 1989.

Durrant, who held BYU's school record for season scoring average (27.9) before Fredette broke it this season, was named to the All-American team and was a second-round pick of the Indiana Pacers in 1984.

"Each of us had an older brother who played an important role," says Durrant.

Ainge and his older brothers liked to play a game they called "burnout" on the front lawn of their Oregon home. Doug and David would throw a baseball at their little brother as hard as they could; Danny either caught the ball with his hands or his face (don't try this at home). When they weren't playing burnout they were playing two-on-one football, with Doug and David covering their little brother.

"It was brutal — I mean it," Don Ainge, the boys' father, once told Sports Illustrated. "I'd burn the ball to them and they'd cream each other. Horrible things. David and Doug never let Danny win. I mean never."

Danny recalled playing one-on-one basketball twice a day with David. "I honestly don't think we ever got to the end of a game," says Danny. "Every single one ended in a fight."

Durrant recalls the same upbringing. "My older brother Matt pounded on me for years. If he couldn't find someone to play with I was the answer. We'd play one-on-one, and he'd just pound me. I'd usually go in the house crying. He always beat me. He didn't benefit from it, but I learned to score over a bigger guy playing against my brother."

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