LEHI — They came from all over the country, big and small, fast and slow. They came to experience a touch of magic and hoped some of the charm dust would stick. They came to workout with their legendary hero, Jimmer Fredette.
Hundreds of college and NBA players do summer camps, but only one made ESPN's SportsCenter this week when Fredette put on a show for the little ones gathered in his name.
Friday was the final day of Jimmer Camp for Shooters at the XSI Factory in Lehi. There, kids did more drills than Makita, charting shots in a diary, learning to increase range, create space, be more explosive, shoot off the dribble, hit the step back jumper, and receive wise words about life.
Charles Barkley once said, "I am not a role model." He repeated that mantra on a Nike commercial. Fredette cannot avoid such duty. To his critics and admirers alike, his life will be judged on and off the court.
Fredette started his senior season at BYU on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a superhero, a montage takeoff from DC comics. His life imitated art.
"It's big, it’s the reason my grandson came to this camp," said Bill Allinson of Riverton. "Jimmer is good with the kids. He shook everyone's hand. Once in the individual drills, he came out and did them with the kids and gave them high fives. He is a great mentor — it's fun."
Leticia Orozco brought her son Liam Cabrera all the way from Juarez, Mexico, for the Jimmer camp. Did 11-year-old Liam watch Fredette play this year? "Of course, definitely, he is big time," said the mother.
Julie Hendrickson from Ogden called the camp "fabulous" and Fredette a "great, great" role model. "It's not only the skills my son Samuel is learning, but how to cope in life. It's been fantastic — the best camp we've been to."
Tina Rustand from Tucson, Ariz., specifically signed up her two sons Austin, 13, and Jackson, 6, for the camp because of the personalities — specifically Fredette and camp director, former BYU star Marty Haws and his partner, former Atlanta Brave slugger Dale Murphy.
"With the talks we've had with Jimmer and his dad, Al, teaching them skills and to be good people and rise above and be all they can be, it's been great," said Rustand.
One of the biggest complaints or suggestions coming out of the first annual Jimmer Camp is folks want to see more of Jimmer. "But that's unrealistic," said Rustand. "A guy at his level can't be here all the time."
"Jimmer can't be here every day all day long, but he had made his presence known," said Haws.
And, boy, did he.
At one session, on cue, under pressure and with all those adoring eyeballs focused on him, Fredette took five shots from distance at half court, three-quarter court and full court.
With perfect rotation, the shots rose and sailed towards the rim. The ones he made didn't rattle in — they snapped the net. He made four of five and the kids had their jolt of something from George Lucas' version of Yoda and basketball Star Wars.
Of course, it made SportsCenter, the week he won an ESPY for the College Athlete of the Year.
"It was kind of impromptu," said Haws of Jimmer's shots. "We'd just finished one session and the next session was here and we had them all line up in their lines. Jimmer was just out messing around. He started stepping back like he does and before you know it he was four or five steps beyond half court. It was probably the highlight of the whole thing. The kids love it."
The Jimmer Camp for Shooters actually piggy-backed an established program by Haws and Murphy based on character education titled "I Won't Cheat." It is a program partnered up with Little League and the Little League World Series where players can be seen on ESPN with "I Won't Cheat" patches.
Haws and Murphy just finished a year in which they took their program to all 50 states in schools, leagues and camps. The Fredette family wanted to get involved with Haws and Murphy with a basketball camp.
"We've done basketball camps, but this was a great opportunity to partner with Jimmer and his family," Haws said. "With this great facility, we decided to have basketball instruction two hours a day on the court, a half hour in velocity speed training and a half hour of classroom, where campers broke down film and listened to speakers including Murphy who admonished youth to not cut corners or cheat, to give their best and live with the results and be happy with the effort."
"It's been a big hit," Haws added. "The reaction has been overwhelming."
Haws said Jimmer's father, Al, spoke to the campers and told them how hard his son worked and that it didn't come easy.
"Some are here thinking there is something magical they'll learn," said Haws. "Thing is, it’s the same drills, the same routines and it does take a lot of work to improve your game."
No question having Jimmer was a billboard, a magnet without price. Kids wore more Sacramento Kings jerseys than those of the Utah Jazz.20 comments on this story
"We were scheduled to do this camp and when we got involved with Jimmer, it sold out just like that," said Haws. "We could have easily had twice the kids. We cut it off at 600 so we could have 15 for each half court with two counselors.
The drills, the skills, the character chats and challenges? Mixing sweat with pep talks about being honest with effort and aim?
"We've hit on something," Haws said.
As Jimmer handed out camp awards on Friday before talking off for Alaska, his older brother TJ performed his rap music for those gathered at week's end.
"We've been to three camps this year," Allinson said. "This is the best by far."