Dick Harmon: How wide-spread is Jimmer's popularity?

Published: Friday, Feb. 18 2011 11:00 p.m. MST

Going out of Jimmer Country for a little excursion this weekend in Texas offers an interesting perspective.

I'm staying at a Marriott Hotel right smack in the middle of Dallas. It's a poor area, kind of run down, right off I-35 near the airport. I asked four people — three guys and a gal — if they'd ever heard of Jimmer Fredette. They looked at me like I spoke of an alien from another planet.

"No, I haven't heard of him, who is he?" responded the 20-something man managing the gas station behind a bullet-proof window. He considered himself a basketball fan.

I told him Jimmer was the college basketball's leading scorer and could be the player of the year.

"Oh, really?" he responded.

I approached another Dallas-ite.

"No, I don't know of him, should I have heard of him?" answered a gas station patron, a young black guy with a flat-billed lid on his head. "I'm a basketball fan, a big Laker fan. Who is Jimmer?"

I turned and walked back across the street to the hotel where two Marriott employees were outside the front door enjoying a smoke break. I asked them if they had heard about Jimmer.

They said both said "no" and wanted to know why I was asking. Lynestiae, a young woman in her 20s said she follows sports when she can, but couldn't recall Jimmer. Moses Sanchez said he and Lynestiae worked every night and that restriction kept them from keeping current on sports and players like "What's-his-name."

"Why don't you tell us what he does against TCU," said Moses, when I told him why I was in their fair city this weekend.

Of course, this is Dallas. TCU basketball, heck college basketball in general, might as well be in Finland for all they care. This is Dallas Cowboys country, and if you pressed them, they'd absolutely know all about the Mavs' Dirk Nowitzki. It's the culture.

Still, I'd gone 0-for-4 in a matter of seven minutes.

In fairness to the four, if I approached four people in Salt Lake City last year and asked them if they'd heard of the top player of the year candidate, they would probably not know it was Ohio State's Evan Turner.

Contrast that with a little indoctrination; some sprinkling of YouTube videos, rap music videos, leverage in a SportsCenter in a household that knows Jimmer and it's a different Texas story.

Four hours south of here in Houston, my grandson, Jackson, age 6, comes home from school every day, goes to in the backyard and shoots the basketball. He says he's Jimmer Fredette. His 4-year old sister Ashlyn cheers him on, saying, "Come on, Jimmer Fer-dead, you missed one."

BYU fans are expected to swarm the confines of Daniel-Meyer Coliseum today as the No. 7 Cougars play TCU. Folks here say it will be a sellout, an afternoon that will give the Big East-bound university its biggest basketball payday of the season.

It is Jimmertime.

Despite the four folks I polled here in the inner city of Dallas, Fredette's story continues to roll this week — even when the Cougars did not play a game until today. National stories kept cropping up like dandelions in springtime.

It has to get to Jimmer. Pressure mounts for him to keep scoring, for BYU to keep winning, to keep things rolling. But we all know there will be off nights. We saw one with Jimmer last week against Utah. He still got 23.

"I think it says a lot about his character," said BYU senior guard Jackson Emery. "Because of all the publicity he's gotten, Jimmer is all over and he hasn't changed a bit.

"That's the best thing, you can tell how good a player is, I mean I remember Illinois' coach talked about one of his players got a lot of publicity and it ruined him. That's not Jimmer."

Today's TCU-BYU game will be interesting on another Jimmer front.

The last time BYU played the Frogs in Provo, TCU's best athlete, Ronnie Moss, guarded Fredette and did a great job, holding the Cougar to 21 points on 6-of-16 shooting. However, Moss got kicked off TCU's team since then. How will that impact today's game?

Another issue: How will officials manage Fredette's defenders? It came into focus this past week after Air Force and Utah got physical with the national player of the year candidate. That physicality seemed to escalate after Fredette made all 16 free throws against UNLV in Provo.

Experts, including coaches and veteran officials, admit Fredette is a tough player to officiate.

I asked BYU coach Dave Rose if Fredette's size works against him — people don't knock him off a line easily.

"I think it's a combination of his size and strength and his agility, his ability to get between people," answered the coach.

"I think the most frustrating thing for him is when he kind of slides through guys and there's a second and third defender and there's contact. The initial contact, I think he really of expects it, but when he gets hit when trying to finish, hopefully he's protected."

Good answer.

But I know four people in Dallas who won't know about it or care.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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