Dick Harmon: Jimmer Fredette's decision to stay was the right one

Published: Saturday, April 2 2011 10:00 p.m. MDT

BYU senior point guard Jimmer Fredette has won multiple national player of the year awards this season.  (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) BYU senior point guard Jimmer Fredette has won multiple national player of the year awards this season. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

It's a realm unforeseen 14 months ago.

When Dave Rose and Jimmer Fredette sat down and discussed the pros and cons of taking Fredette's name out of the NBA draft just over a year ago, neither had any idea what was in store.

Rose and Fredette had hoped BYU would win a Mountain West Conference championship. They hoped BYU would at least make the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. They hoped a team with chemistry and returning senior sidekick Jackson Emery would climb in the rankings, get a high seed, and the season would be fun and worth the return of Fredette.

The coach and player received feedback back in the spring of 2010 that Fredette would not be promised a first-round draft last June — that if he worked hard and BYU had success with him at the front — he could improve his NBA stock.

Fredette's eye-popping shooting and scoring ability created terms like 'Jimmer Range' and simply 'Jimmered.'             (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Fredette's eye-popping shooting and scoring ability created terms like 'Jimmer Range' and simply 'Jimmered.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Neither could have foreseen the firestorm of publicity that erupted after Fredette made the decision to return to Provo for his senior campaign as the nation's leading collegiate scorer.

Fredette is now piling up national player of the year awards. Some experts project he may have worked his way into becoming a lottery pick, or at the least a mid-teen first-round draftee come June.

Fredette rewrote BYU and MWC scoring records, something he could not have done a year ago in a season in which he battled mononucleosis.

As for Rose, his program has never been more prominently displayed in the national spotlight. It's made recruiting easier and opened doors for him personally. That subtle decision last summer has catapulted BYU to a place it hasn't sniffed in 30 years.

In part, that is why many Rose watchers in Provo say he is expected to return to build on the momentum gained.

The decision.

Who could have predicted the domino it set forth the past four months? It is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime world that spontaneously hatched with basketball fans and Jimmer Fredette.

It even caught the two-time All-American by surprise.

Back on Jan. 11, after he scored 47 points in a win over Utah — including that half-court shot at the halftime buzzer, then calmly walking away as if it was routine as a towel swipe on his face — it all exploded.

It was superseded in a win over San Diego State. It climbed even higher after a second win over the Aztecs.

"It took on a life of its own," is how Fredette explained it this week in Houston, where he received the Oscar Robertson Award and the U.S. Basketball Writers of America honor as the national player of the year.

Boy, did it ever.

Even late Friday night, during SportsCenter's NBA wrapup show, producers of the cable sports giant used a graphic called "Jimmer Range" to describe shots from distance.

At the NCAA second-round site at the Pepsi Center several weeks ago, during the team's shoot-around, players for St. John's University were attempting long 3-pointers. When they made them, they walked away as if without a care.

They were doing the Jimmer thing.

At Thanksgiving Point Golf Course on Friday, when Brian Seeley, Dan Checketts or Randy Dodson made a long putt or chipped in from off the green, they'd nonchalantly walk away and say they were doing the "Jimmer walk."

A sign near the exit of BYU's testing center on campus reads: "Hope you Jimmered that test."

Similar stories trickle in from high school, college and NBA games from around the country.

A life of its own.

On Thursday, Houston's SportsTalk 790 AM host Matt Thomas interviewed Fredette and told him he was no longer Jimmer Fredette but The Jimmer. "You are a phenomenon, dude."

Thomas asked Fredette how crazy this season has been for his teammates and what does it mean exactly to be Jimmered.

"Hopefully, it means something good. Hopefully, it means you did something positive, that you really killed something," he answered.

"It's kind of funny, really, how people love the name and have been creative in how they use it. We've had a lot of fun with it as players."

Thomas noted BYU has had many All-Americans that have become famous, players like Steve Young, Danny Ainge and Ty Detmer. Then he predicted, "Now you will probably be the poster child for BYU sports going forward."

At the end of the radio segment, another host thanked Fredette for coming on the air and he ended with the line, "Hopefully, we just Jimmered the interview."

Back in Glens Falls, N.Y., the Fredette family is trying to get back to normal life after a crazy March that followed a crazy February and January.

The decision, it turns out, was the right one and Jimmer's parents, Al and Kay, were a part of it.

Parents want the best for their children.

In the case of the Fredettes, they've always known their son had it in him and they had faith he could do great things. But they've always hoped people could see him as a person, a kind and humble young man who is driven, but not forgetting his roots and his place in the world.

"We had a wonderful experience through the college years and we love Utah and everyone who supported him," said Kay Fredette.

"It's something also that we never will forget. I'm having trouble with the reality that it's over and he will never play amateur basketball again, but I am also looking forward to his future and what is to come.

"What you see is what you get with Jimmer," she said. "He has been a joy to us and has never given us a moment of trouble in his life. I think that people have identified with Jimmer as being just a regular, unassuming kid that happens to play good basketball. He hasn't looked for any of this attention, and I think he is sometimes embarrassed and confused by it all, but it's what has happened and he is dealing with it the best that he can."

Indeed, Jimmermania is something nobody expected. It is a world that's taken on a life of its own.

EMAIL: dharmon@desnews.com

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