SALT LAKE CITY — Jimmer Fredette is back in the state where he became a household name with his sensational shooting and fun play with BYU's basketball team.
Interestingly, Fredette's Kings are in Utah, his college state, after playing Saturday in his home state of New York against the Kings.
"New York to Utah, yep. It's funny," the native of Glens Falls, N.Y., said. "But it's been a good trip."
Fredette's wife Whitney thrilled him with a surprise visit to Utah in time for a Super Bowl party on the Kings' day off Sunday.
Another fun moment?
"I was happy for Dennis Pitta, a BYU guy," he said, smiling about the TD the tight end caught in the Ravens' 34-31 over the Niners.
Of course, the former BYU standout hopes tonight will be a continuation of an otherwise fun trip back to his old stomping grounds.
The Jazz (26-22) and Kings (17-32) tip off at 7 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena, where the inconsistently used Sacramento guard will be greeted with his usual chorus of boos and cheers whenever he steps onto the court.
This morning, Fredette took time after the Kings' shootaround session to discuss a wide variety of topics with Utah media — from his team's struggles, his hit-and-miss opportunities to BYU's basketball team and his old teammate, Tyler Haws.
— What are the emotions like when you play in EnergySolutions Arena and come back to Utah?
"It's always fun. I always have a great time coming back, seeing friends and family and familiar faces, just with the BYU crowd and people that you have learned to love the last four years that I was in college. It's always an exciting time. I'm glad to be back again. Hopefully, this time we'll be able to come out with a win."
— How are you doing? It's been a struggle to get minutes (14.2 mpg) and consistent playing time:
"It still has been, but I'm biding my time and trying to play the best I can when I get the opportunity, working hard everyday in practice and in the games and doing what I can when I get on the floor and trying to help the team as much as I can. I feel like I'm confident and progressing as a player, but hopefully at some point we'll continue to get more minutes and have more of a role."
— The Jazz just played former Weber State star Damian Lillard and saw how well he's doing. Does it give you hope or make you frustrated to see guys have early success like that when you had success against them in college:
"I still have a lot time, I think, in this league. People take different paths. Everybody who comes out of college is a big-time player and then they take different paths in the NBA, whether they're a guy that develops slower and has a better career later or if the guy starts playing well right away.
"Obviously, Damian's been playing really well right away (in Portland), getting a lot of minutes and shooting the ball well, leading that team and doing a great job of it. And, myself (I'm) trying to find more minutes. That happens. You can't get frustrated. You've got to stay the course, continue to progress and I know I'll have my time."
— On what's happening with the Kings, who've lost seven of eight and are 17-32: "It's been a tough road. Teams go through that during the season. It's our turn right now. The biggest thing to get out of it is for us to play as a team, move the ball and play for each other. If we do that, we play well. But at times we get away from it. When we get into a hole, I think sometimes we move one-on-one too much. We need to try to stay away from that as much as we can."
— Utah players described the Kings as a young team that plays a lot of isolation. How do you describe the Jazz?
"They have extremely good bigs and they've got some shooters outside that can hit shots. They have a good all-around team. They've got a lot of pieces, but they definitely play through their bigs with (Paul) Millsap and (Al) Jefferson. Then when the bench comes in (Derrick) Favors and (Enes) Kanter, they've got some really good big guys. And then you've got to be aware of their shooters. They're going to slash and they're going to make open shots. They're a tough team to play."
— Do you get a chance to follow BYU basketball?
"I definitely stay up with them. They've had some close games recently, but they've played really well last game, so that was good to see. They just need to continue to play hard. I know coach (Dave Rose) has got them thinking that they need to make a couple of big wins to get into the NCAA Tournament, I think. They've got Gonzaga at home and St. Mary's on the road. That will be a tough one with the close one that they had at the Marriott Center. It will be fun to watch, but I definitely always stay up with them."
— What do you think about how Tyler Haws is playing?
"I played with Tyler before his (LDS) mission. He's playing great. I knew he was going to be a very good player right from the get-go. He's just got a smooth stroke, a one-two dribble pull-up, shoots it well from the 3-point line. He' just a tough player, moves well without the ball coming off screens. He's a tough guard. I love his game and hopefully he continues to get better and keep scoring."
— Haws isn't passing up many shots, is he?
"Definitely not. That's his role on this team right now to shoot the ball and be aggressive. They definitely need his scoring out there, a guy that can stretch the floor and definitely helps Brandon (Davies) on the inside because he gets double-teamed a lot and he can kick it out to a couple of guys who can shoot the ball, so it's important."
— Can you see Haws make the NBA?
"I think so. He's a tough player. He's about 6-5, 6-6, a guy that can shoot the ball extremely well. This league's always looking for shooters, so I think that he definitely has a shot."
— About the good battles the Kings and Jazz have had while splitting their six games in his NBA career:
"Yeah, we have recently, the last couple of years since I've been involved. We've played well against them and they've always been close games, coming down to the wire. They've had some chippy moments and everything. But that's the fun in basketball. It's competitive. Hopefully, tonight we can come out with a win."
— Has the talk about possibly moving to Seattle affected the players?
"We don’t focus on it much. We don't ever talk about it with anybody. We don't talk about it as a group. We're here to play for the Kings right now and we're in Sacramento. That's what we're focused on right now and we don't hear about it too much otherwise."
— Did you get a chance to watch the Super Bowl?
"Yeah, I watched it. We had the day off yesterday, coming off a back-to-back. I was able to go with my sisters and watch it and my wife surprised me here. I didn't know she was going to be here. We were able to watch it together. It was a great game, a lot of fun to watch. Kind of interesting with the power outage and everything, but a really fun Super Bowl to watch."
Especially, he added, that Pitta part.
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