BYU guard Jimmer Fredette has unfinished business

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 13 2015 10:15 p.m. MDT

PROVO — The rap sequel to "Amazing" has already been written by his older brother; now it's up to BYU preseason All-America Jimmer Fredette to live up to the hype.

"We just touched the surface

of the purpose

we've been working for"

If those words don't say enough, TJ Fredette explains in plain English why the star guard for the 23rd-ranked Cougars pulled his name out of the NBA draft to return to Provo.

"More than anything, he felt like there was unfinished business at BYU," said the oldest Fredette brother, who is climbing his own ladder as a rap artist after his song "Amazing" gained attention during the NCAA tournament last season.

That means winning a Mountain West Conference championship, something BYU failed to do last year, and advancing at least to the third round of the NCAAs.

BYU made it to the second round last season, thanks in part to Jimmer Fredette's leadership and ability to create shots, including 37 points in the Cougars' double-overtime victory over Florida.

If the effort thrust the 21-year-old into the national spotlight, TJ Fredette already knew his kid brother was headed there.

Just go back a dozen years when TJ had Jimmer dribbling in the dark, or with a work glove on his hand, or through a darkened gauntlet in the church hallway filled with friends popping out of doorways to test Jimmer's concentration.

It makes those keys Earl Woods jingled while Tiger putted seem tame.

Granted, Jimmer Fredette wasn't hitting 3s for a national TV audience before he hit kindergarten. But mental and physical toughness were built into the Glens Falls, N.Y., native from an early age.

His uncle, Lee Taft, aka The Speed Guy, is a renowned fitness expert who teaches classes and conducts seminars on agility training. Taft had the Fredette boys go through some of the same workouts by the time they hit middle school.

And when a neighbor's uncle suggested the boys, once they were 18, take their game to the prisons, where the uncle ran various recreational programs for inmates on good behavior, they jumped at the chance.

"They see you walk in, 'Oh, little white boy over here tryin' to play against us,' " Jimmer Fredette recalled of that first trip to Mount McGregor, a medium-security facility in upstate New York where riding the prison bus up the hill and hearing metal doors slam shut was part of the experience.

Jimmer Fredette, with 40 points in his first game against the inmates, immediately earned the respect of the inmates on the court and in the stands.

"It only took one of those crossover moves for them to really like him," TJ Fredette said.

Now, in his final season at BYU, Jimmer Fredette is ready to step up his game again.

"He's a pretty special player when he gets going," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "He's such a confident offensive player. Then there's a variety of ways he can score. He can go to his left, score going to his right, (drive to) the basket, (shoot) from 10 feet, or (hit) 3-pointers and he's a great free-throw shooter. I don't think there's a situation one-on-one where he can't handle himself and get a pretty good look at the basket."

In the season-opener against Fresno State on Friday, he did just that, leading all scorers with 24 points. He ignited a BYU run midway through the first half with a spin move that saw him make the shot and draw a foul even as he was falling down. He'd get another shot up and over Fresno State's 6-10 center for two more.

It helped that he spent the summer mixing it up in Las Vegas with some of the NBA's best as part of a select team composed of 20 top college players.

Denver Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups said he was curious to see how Fredette could handle pressure but came away impressed after seeing him keep up a good pace.

"Everybody knows he can score," Billups said. "I think he's got to prove to everybody that he can run the show and affect the game without scoring. As a point guard, if you can affect the game without scoring, then you really improve your odds of success."

BYU teammate Noah Hartsock said Fredette not only helped himself but brought that experience back to Provo to improve the team.

"It gave me confidence that I can play at that level," Jimmer Fredette said of his time with Team USA.

Just not this season.

Now it's about keeping pace with No. 25 San Diego State, which is favored to win the Mountain West because it returns five starters (compared to three for BYU).

"Jimmer doesn't look like he's going to be a 30-point or 40-point scorer," backcourt teammate Jackson Emery said. "You look at him and say, 'Maybe if I leave him open, he's going to get his points.' Jimmer just creates ways he can score. I think a lot of people underestimate him. Last year he proved he can do a lot of things. I think he'll do the same this year."

Far from arrogant, Jimmer Fredette is more shy and quiet than anything.

When he isn't working out, he can be found at the dollar theater or watching a movie at his apartment.

"Shawshank Redemption" is his favorite, but not because of his prison hoops experience. He likes movies that make people think, with well-written plots and stories with good endings.

He's hopeful his own will end in the frenzy that is March Madness.

He just needs to follow his brother's lyrics.

"It's history in the making, no mistaking

...it's the grand finale

Oh yes, it's Amazing."

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company