PROVO — Many NBA top draft prospects are dictating how and when they'll be evaluated — if at all. But Jimmer Fredette is taking a different approach. He is all but challenging top-rated guards UConn's Kemba Walker and Kentucky's Brandon Knight to face him head-to-head before the June 23 draft.
It makes sense. Walker and Knight are projected to be picked higher and don't need to dress up and risk a bad day. They've been picky as to what they'll do and when. Fredette is battling for a higher pick and he is apparently pulling out all the stops.
"He's feeling really good about his workouts so far. He's feeling very confident. He's had great physical conditioning," said his uncle Lee Taft, who is Fredette's strength and conditioning coach.
"He's really zoned in right now. This is what he's worked for his whole life, and he's not going to let it slip away. The fun part about watching him is he brings it when he really needs to bring it."
Fredette made it known this week that he'll rearrange his pre-draft schedule to accommodate Walker and Knight at a Jazz workout slated for Wednesday. Name the time and place, he'll accommodate.
Taft evaluates Fredette's workouts daily and sends him workout agendas via the Internet. Taft just finished a sports camp in Providence and is heading for another at Purdue University in West Lafayette in coming days.
Before the NBA's May combine in Chicago, Taft, who is known as "The Speed Guy," predicted in the Deseret News the most surprising thing Fredette would deliver to scouts at the combine is his speed.
Indeed, Fredette posted the third-best lane agility time of 3.21 seconds, ahead of Knight, Walker, Isaiah Thomas and Noland Smith.
"I was very excited he did as predicted, but I wasn't surprised at all," said Taft. "I've worked with Jimmer so long and worked with some very talented athletes and Jimmer is so efficient. If you watch some of the clips of his drills in the lane at the combine, you saw how efficient he is with his movements. He understands what it means to position his upper and lower body when doing these types of drills."
"He did what I knew he could do. It's funny because when I talked to him, he said it was easy for him because he's done it so much and we've spent a lot of time with it over the years. With others it is more difficult because it's foreign to them, especially when they are being tested. He said he could have done better, he could have performed a little better if his foot hadn't slipped, but he's such a competitor he knows he can bring it when he needs to."
Taft said Fredette is confident right now because he's had "tons of repetitions" shooting. "He's really pure right now, hitting a high percent."
In May, Taft accepted an invitation to address the Finnish Coaches Association in Helsinki and the Iceland Basketball Federation in Iceland. At both venues, people found out he was Fredette's uncle and clamored to get his updates. "People who follow basketball know Jimmer," said Taft.
Fredette told his uncle since the workout with the Pacers, he's shown an "aggression" people didn't think he had coming out of college, where he played differently than how he's going to have to play. "Athletically, he's right there with any of those guys and his shooting and ball handling speak for themselves. He can score and create spaces and is pretty special," said Taft.
Teams have run Fredette into a sweat for more than an hour and then had him pull up and hit NBA 3s. He's consistently made them. Taft said leading up to the combine, that was part of Fredette's workout.
"It's an adventure anytime, not just when you are tired. It takes a lot of concentration and I think one thing that is lost on Jimmer is the fact he has tremendous concentration when under a microscope. When he has to produce, he does a pretty good job."
Taft has run Fredette hard in practices. "It was tough and he was forced to run the floor and do a lot of pull-up jumpers in a certain amount of time and make just so many shots before he was allowed to stop. It was very demanding."
Heading into workouts with Utah and Phoenix, mock draft experts have Fredette going anywhere from No. 7 to 20. He just finished an impressive workout with the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.
Former Timpview and BYU basketball player Alan Andrus, who played professionally in Japan, attended the Kings' workout.
"Jimmer played well. Of course he shot well, though not spectacularly — for him," said Andrus. "He passed very well in the 3-on-3, dominating without shooting a lot. He also looked good, and I would guess quicker than the Kings' braintrust might have expected, on defense. Offensively, he had some moves that had Jerry Reynolds, Pete Carril, and the whole row of Kings brass laughing and shaking their heads at how good he was. At one point he probably hit 15 20-foot pull-up jumpers in a row.
"It was actually comical to see how much (co-owner) Gavin Maloof seemed to be enthralled with Jimmer. While Tyler Honeycutt's athleticism was impressive, both Maloof and Petrie went directly up to Jimmer afterwards and spent a considerable amount of time with him. I didn't see them even speak to the other five players."
Walker couldn't make the workout with Fredette. The Kings brought in Sam Muldrow, Josh Harrellson, Honeycutt, Tobias Harris and UTEP's Randy Culpepper.
"The Kings brought out another guard, (believed to be Culpepper), who was super quick," said Andrus.
"My supposition is that this was to measure Jimmer's quickness. Jimmer did an impressive job of staying in front of him, even on full-court one-on-one drills. In the same drills, when Jimmer was on offense, he blew right by him. Jimmer was too strong and crafty for the other guard to handle."