NEWARK, N.J. — You could say it's the stuff of fairy tales; the chubby kid with a ball and a dream, who one day becomes a wealthy King.
Thursday night in New Jersey, Jimmer Fredette capped a remarkable journey from little-known high school scoring sensation, to top-10 NBA Draft pick of the Sacramento Kings; the small-town hero hoping to help resuscitate a small-market franchise.
By way of a trade that resulted in the Milwaukee Bucks making a selection for the Kings, Fredette earned the golden handshake from Commissioner David Stern, then had to bide his time while the three-team trade was finalized.
"It was a crazy night; I had to wait for about two and a half hours, but I knew (the trade) was going to happen, and I'm just really excited to reach the dream."
It was a dream that was born in upstate New York, as the chunky youngster his brother T.J. called "Cheeks" began to shed the baby fat and excel as a basketball player. Jimmer's father Al knew he was witnessing the start of something special.
"Even when he was 10 years old, I took him (from Glens Falls, N.Y.) down to Albany, where they had some good ball players, and I played him down there, just to see," said Al, meeting the media Thursday night with a crisp Kings cap perched on his head. "We came back and I said to myself, 'he can play on that level.' You don't project it out; you just say, 'what's the next step, what's the next step?' "
That approach paid off in high school scoring records, a scholarship to play at BYU, then conference and national player of the year awards, and now acclaim as one of the NBA's bright future stars. "I'm just from a small town, a normal-looking kid, normal size, but I had a dream," said Fredette as he navigated press row at the Prudential Center. "I went out and worked hard as I possibly could to be able to reach this position. It just goes to show that anybody can do it if they work as hard as they can and put their mind to it."
If that mantra sounds cliche Jimmer's tale is anything but. Normally, top-10 NBA picks are reserved for the hot-shot blue-chippers or the foreign phenoms, not players like Fredette, who wasn't recruited by the "name schools," didn't start a single game of his freshman season at BYU, and who had legions of doubters even as draft night approached.
"That's Jimmer," said his contented agent Chris Emens last night. "He's always making believers out of unbelievers … he's exceptional and unique."
Equally unique was the coast-to-coast phenomenon of "Jimmmermania," which interestingly continues its westward progression. Figuratively and literally, there are more mountains to climb, with Fredette having left the Adirondacks for the Rockies, and now headed beyond the High Sierras.
Jimmer's head coach at BYU knows first-hand what the Kings fans in Sacramento can expect when Fredette hits the floor. "They are getting a guy they are going to love to watch," said Dave Rose, who sat as a guest of the Fredette family in the draft night Green Room. "This game is so much about entertainment, and they are going to love to watch Jimmer Fredette play. And I'm happy that he's close to Utah, so we can keep an eye on him."34 comments on this story
Certainly, the Kings' fan base will grow substantially, as Jimmer's fans in Utah and beyond will be adopted into Sacramento's family of supporters. On the night the kid became the King, Fredette's closest supporters could only sit back and marvel.
Recounting the post-draft reaction at the Fredette family table, Rose relayed that "Al just kept saying 'this is unbelievable,' and it is. Maybe they ought to make a movie or something, because it's quite a story."
Kind of like a fairy tale.