I had an interesting conversation with two NBA GMs this week about Jimmer Fredette following the rookie combine in Chicago last weekend. One told me Jimmer will be a scorer in the NBA because of his unique range, will likely play point guard at the next level, and in his opinion, will definitely be a lottery pick.
As for his defensive liabilities, the other GM told me most of his colleagues were impressed with Jimmer's athleticism, quickness and strength — that Jimmer is probably a better defensive player than he's been given credit for. Certainly, he has the tools to improve his defensive skills, but given his size he can still be exploited — especially if he's a two. At 6-foot-2, he's better suited to play the one than the two, just as the other GM suggested.
Of course, no one knows where he'll go or when or if he'll play the point, shooting guard, both or come off the bench.
Frankly, I want to see him go to the Jazz at 12. I admire the Millers, but I'm not a Jazz fan.
I follow the 76ers, but not because I work in Philly. I was a 76ers fan as a kid because I loved their backcourt of Maurice Cheeks at point and Andrew Toney at shooting guard, with a front court that included Julius "Doctor J" Erving at small forward and Moses Malone at center. My favorite player was Toney, because he tortured the Celtics — my least favorite team — earning the nickname, "The Boston Strangler."
I have a different reason for wanting to see Jimmer stay in Utah, and it has nothing to do with Jimmermania helping ticket sales or whether he can replace Deron Williams as the team's next great point guard.
Utah will probably use their third pick on a big man, their greater need as it's likely Jimmer will still be there at 12.
The reason I'd like Jimmer to remain in Utah is simple: he's still single. I'm told he's in a serious relationship with a BYU co-ed who will be a cheerleader next year. Good for him.
All of us who are LDS and played professional sports understand the challenges he'll face. If you're married, the transition is much easier to the jet-set life of a seven-figure salary, first-class travel, five-star hotels, team security by former FBI agents and unscrupulous women who await in lobbies, restaurants and stadiums.
If you're single, it's a treacherous minefield. Jimmer may have gotten a glimpse of it this year as the national player of the year, but the NBA life will be an entirely different thing. Unlike politics, professional sports forces you to declare and define your faith. A locker room full of type-A alpha-males WILL NOT allow room for wavering. Do you go to strip clubs with the guys or go home? Do you go to bars for beers with the fellas or go wander the mall? Do you succumb to women who throw themselves at you or go to the Institute building and play ping-pong?
If you're married, you always have someone to go home to, but if you're an LDS single trying to stay worthy, well, it's easy to feel lonely — even in the Big Apple or in Beantown, where everyone knows your name.
Personally, I never quite understood how an LDS athlete at a Utah school — BYU, Utah, Weber State, Utah State or SUU — can leave for the pros without a wife at his side. I mean, who has more opportunities to date marriage-eligible, temple-worthy college co-eds than a jock? Seriously. If a knucklehead like me could do it ...
Of course, no one should feel sorry for Jimmer. Most people would trade places with him in a New York minute.
Perhaps the most notable of the LDS athletes to enter professional sports as a bachelor was Steve Young. Dale Murphy was a 19-year-old convert, nonetheless, found himself a young single adult in pro baseball.
What Steve and Dale had in common besides their movie-star looks, priesthood worthiness and unlimited earning power, was they both returned to Provo in the off-season.
Both took classes at BYU — Steve as a law student and Dale as an undergraduate — while looking for Mrs. Right.
The city where you play may have a strong YSA program or local colleges with Institute programs, but none of them match the pool of eligible young women available in Utah. Hence, many of the LDS bachelor pros continue to return to Utah. Some, didn't even play college ball in Utah schools.
Jimmer could go to Milwaukee at 10 or Phoenix at 13, if the Jazz pass on him at 12. I played in both towns as a Packer and a Cardinal — there are more Saints in Phoenix so more YSA wards, and there is a vibrant Institute at ASU. But neither Milwaukee nor Phoenix have as many YSAs as Utah.
I've come across scores of handsome, wealthy, smart and, of course, athletic LDS members, just here in Philadelphia — current Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley and former Eagles receiver and returned missionary Kevin Curtis among them. Shawn Bradley was single when he was drafted by the Sixers in the early '90s, but he found his wife in a singles' ward in Philly. Bryan Kehl was a bachelor in New York when he arrived as a rookie and while he played with the Giants. He found his eternal companion and is now married.
Former NBA player Mark Madsen, former NFL player/analyst Trevor Matich, Denver Broncos lineman Shawn Murphy, Rockies pitcher Matt Lindstrom, Washington Redskin DL Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Oakland Raider David Nixon and recent Eagles draftee Stanley Havili are just some of the LDS pros who were single when they left college. I know some but not all of them, so if any have since married, it hasn't been long.
Once you leave college, it gets harder, not easier to find a spouse, and it's the same if you're headed to the NBA or IBM. I've talked to dozens of single LDS pro athletes who lament their squandered opportunities while in college — especially former Cougars — to find a worthy mate.
That's why I'd like to see Jimmer get drafted by the Jazz. It would increase his chance of being a husband.