Editor's note: Fifth in a series examining Division I college basketball transfers.
PROVO — As a freshman in 2007-08, BYU guard Jimmer Fredette didn’t start a game and averaged a modest seven points per contest.
As a sophomore, Fredette became a starter, averaging 16 points in a supporting role on a team that also featured veterans Lee Cummard and Jonathan Tavernari.
It wasn’t until midway through his junior season that Fredette exploded on the national scene. By his senior year, in 2010-11, he earned consensus All-American honors while leading the Cougars to their first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance in 30 years.
BYU associate head coach Tim LaComb frequently shares that story with recruits, and current players, to illustrate how exercising patience can play a big role in achieving success.
“Jimmer came here with a big-time reputation. With that comes expectations, both from the team and the player,” LaComb said. “In Jimmer’s case, as a freshman, he had a veteran group of guys in front of him that may not have been as talented as he was but were experienced and understood how things went. Not to say he wasn’t frustrated but he did accept his role and worked through some tough things, which is probably something you don’t see as much anymore.
"It was a combination of Jimmer understanding his role and also understanding that BYU was a really good fit for him from a system standpoint," LaComb continued. "After that first year, he went into coach (Dave Rose) and rather than demanding things and saying, ‘If it’s not this way, I’m going to transfer,’ he had a really good conversation with coach and laid out why he felt like he could become the player he became."
Of course, not everyone can be Jimmer. But in a world of instant gratification, Fredette’s experience at BYU can be instructive. Like many programs around the country, the Cougars have seen their share of young players transfer when they don't get the playing time they feel they deserve.
“The more that we can tell that story, they can see there’s actually some wisdom at times in things not going your way but then working through it,” LaComb said. “Jimmer went from not starting a game his freshman year to consensus national player of the year his senior year. It’s a real tribute to him. It’s also a tribute to his parents and his family. They gave it time and it all worked out really well. He’s certainly the outlier anymore.”
LaComb would like to see more players stick to their commitment and bide their time.
“We’ve had kids transfer away after a semester, then they find themselves in a worse situation,” he said. “It’s like getting stuck in traffic and you want to take a side route and you get off the freeway and then you get lost or hit a dead end. Sometimes it’s better to stay the course, fight through some things and work hard and put yourself in a position where good things will happen for you.”
Meanwhile, there has also been an increase nationally in fifth-year senior graduates. Last year, BYU signed its first — L.J. Rose.
But coach Dave Rose believes graduate transfers shouldn't be able to play right away.
“I think that rule should be consistent with the undergraduate rule. If you’re going to get your two-year master’s degree, you ought to sit a year and finish the second year as a player,” he said. “That probably won’t happen. It’s being discussed a lot. A lot of mid-major and lower-major rosters are being plucked by some of the other teams. That’s not a healthy situation.”
Rose said if graduate transfers had to sit a year when they transferred, those players probably wouldn’t leave.
“And because there are so many transfers that have to sit out,” he said, “there are so many more kids that have their four-year degree with only three years of eligibility played. What we’re doing is creating a whole batch of new transfers at the end.”
At BYU, the rise in the number of transfers has made roster shakeups even more volatile. The Cougars already deal with players leaving to serve LDS missions.
Rose understands that this generation of player wants to play, and succeed, right away but he would like to see those players be more patient and make the most of their situation — like Fredette did.
“For me, I wish things would settle down a little bit,” Rose said. “I wish guys would give it a little more time and not feel like the grass is always greener after one experience.”
Next in the series: How transfers have impacted Southern Utah.