Jimmer Fredette now belongs to Yao Ming.
On Wednesday, Fredette leaves for China, where he’ll quickly take up a role with the Shanghai Sharks, who are owned by the former Houston Rocket and NBA star. He’ll be in a city of 25 million, the largest city in the world.
It’s another chapter in the life of the former BYU star, who has struggled to find a permanent home in the NBA. He will leave for China with his father Al, and the two will get things set up before Fredette’s wife Whitney joins him for what will be a five-month season.
“We’re looking at this as an adventure,” Fredette said right before his Jimmerosity Golf Tournament at Sleepy Ridge last Friday. “It wasn’t on our bucket list to go to China, but we’ve never been there. We are excited to live in that part of the world and experience new things.”
What Yao Ming wants his Shanghai Sharks team to get out of Fredette is simple scoring. He expects Fredette to have the ball in his hands and fire away, putting up as many shots as possible and as quickly as he can.
Sounds like his career at BYU.
The Chinese Basketball League is composed of 20 teams. Its season is shorter than the NBA, running from October through February. Fredette plans on revisiting any NBA opportunities that may come his way following his season with the Sharks.
For this new opportunity, Fredette has made some changes, primarily in his training routine. While his former trainer wanted him to bulk up and get stronger for a run at an NBA spot, his current trainer has trimmed him down 10 to 12 pounds to make him quicker, more agile.
“We’ll see how it works,” said his father. “He looks good, feels good and I think he’s quicker.”
Fredette said he had a crazy week in Utah. It started with his charity golf tournament to benefit the Jimmer Fredette Family Foundation and its anti-bullying campaign in elementary schools. He then attended the Utah-BYU football game Saturday and will fly to China Wednesday, where after a few practices, he will go to Singapore for a four-game tournament. After a short preseason, he will return to the United States with the Sharks for a preseason game Oct. 2 against the Rockets.
“I’m anxious to get it started.”
Fredette has yet to meet Yao in person, but he’s heard from those around the league that he treats his players with respect and takes care of them.
“It is very similar to an NBA style of play with the Sharks," Fredette said. "And in a city three times the size of New York City, it will be a lot of fun. I can’t imagine a city that size after being in New York last year.”
Fredette has maintained a positive attitude. He works hard, believes in himself, and tries to make the most of every opportunity he’s given. This China thing he sees as another chapter in his life.
While critics will make of it what they will, in Fredette’s mind it is basketball, and he will give it everything he has for as long as opportunities are there. Then he’ll see where it takes him.
For Fredette fans, and they are legion, Shark games will be streamed live on the internet.
“I just want to get better. My goal is to improve everything I do," he said. "As an American, they want you to go over there and score the basketball, to be free and play your game and try to produce. That’s my game, to be aggressive, to score, make the right play.
“I think it will continue to grow my confidence and get me prepared for my future.”
The Sharks are allowed two foreign players. Fredette is one, the other is a player from France, 6-foot-7 Guerschon Yabusele, whom the Boston Celtics drafted at No. 16 this summer.
The Celtics' front office will send scout Austin Ainge to China to see Yabusele’s development. “I’ve already spoken to Austin about him. He (Yabusele) is a power forward who is young but they are excited about him,” said Fredette.
The coming months sounds like an adjustment and a lot of frequent-flier miles.
Fredette says he’s ready, bring it on.
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