Plenty of points as stars align in Jimmer Fredette's return
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
PROVO — Jimmer Fredette has exhausted his college eligibility, and the NBA appears headed for a prolonged lockout.
But make no mistake, Jimmermania is still alive and well in Provo.
During the Jimmer's All-Stars exhibition game Thursday night at the Marriott Center, featuring some of the top college players from last season, including eight first-round NBA draft picks, it seemed like old times.
Fredette, the reigning consensus national player of the year, was reunited with his former coach Dave Rose, and his former BYU backcourt mate, Jackson Emery, and they were cheered wildly — early and often — by the crowd of 11,124.
"That was a great crowd, a lot of energy. It reminded me of a BYU basketball game," Fredette said. "Not quite as many fans in the stadium, but it felt like it when we were out there playing … I was expecting to get 10,000 (fans), but we got more than that in the stands. I was excited to have the people come out and support us again. We appreciated it."
Nevermind that Fredette's team fell to the team captained by former San Diego State star Kawhi Leonard, 140-126.
It was a Made-for-Jimmer/Made-by-Jimmer event and everyone involved seemed to enjoy it.
When Fredette was introduced prior to tipoff, he was greeted by a deafening roar. When he was whistled for traveling in the first quarter, the fans booed while former Duke guard Nolan Smith yelled at the referee, "You can't call that on Jimmer!"
After Fredette drilled his first 3-pointer, over former UConn star Kemba Walker, early in the second quarter, fans unleashed their famous "You got Jimmered!" chant.
When Rose took Fredette out of the game with 52 seconds remaining, he received, of course, a standing ovation.
Fredette finished with 27 points and 10 assists while Smith poured in a game-high 30 points. Kenneth Faried had 23 points and 17 rebounds for Team Fredette.
Team Leonard was led by Leonard and Tobias Harris, who each scored 24 points.
For three of the four quarters, the two teams were evenly matched. But in the decisive second quarter, Team Leonard outscored Team Fredette, 36-19.
With no NBA games in the foreseeable future due to the lockout, the players savored the atmosphere.
The event marked the professional debut for Fredette and the others. For Emery, it was his first and last pro game, as he has opted not to pursue a career in basketball.
"It was awesome," Emery said of the game. "I had my senior night months ago and I didn't think I'd be back. It was a ton of fun."
"To have that many people here on a Thursday night to watch this event doesn't happen," said San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, who coached Team Leonard. "It happened in Provo because of that guy (Fredette) and Dave (Rose). It's because of what they've done with this program. This is a special place."
Walker, who led UConn to the NCAA championship last March, was also impressed with the crowd.
"I had a blast, honestly," he said. "I always knew Jimmer's fans were crazy, bit this was special. I've never seen anything like it. He might be bigger than Justin Bieber."
Now Kemba knows for himself. In Provo, there's nothing like Jimmermania.
NOTES: Visiting players reportedly received $10,000 each for their appearance Thursday, though it's unclear how much Fredette earned. … The Cougar cheerleaders were in attendance, including Fredette's fiancée, Whitney Wonnacott. … At halftime, Fredette's older brother, T.J., a rapper, performed for the crowd.
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