If you don’t know the name Jimmer Fredette yet, you will by March.
Or, you could go to Alumni Arena tonight and get an up close look at one of the best college basketball players that has ever visited Western New York.
We’ve seen a few future NBA players here before. League foes of the local teams have the occasional standout. Pittsburgh and Connecticut were loaded with pro prospects when they were ranked No. 2 in the country and played at UB in recent years. The NCAA tournament games at HSBC Arena are saturated with talent.
But Fredette, the BYU point guard with unlimited shooting range and confidence who was named to eight preseason All-America teams and has the Cougars currently ranked No. 16 in the country, “is as good of a visiting player as we’ve ever had here,” said UB coach Reggie Witherspoon, who has spent the past week alternately preparing his UB players to defend Fredette and local hoops fans to be entertained.
“I can’t think of anyone (better),” Witherspoon said after Thursday’s practice. “Even back to when I was working at the arena and we had Kentucky come in, defending national champions, with Jeff Sheppard.”
Witherspoon evoked a couple legendary names when describing the offensive prowess of Fredette, who is averaging 24.2 points and 4.2 assists.
“He’s a throwback to the days of (Pete) Maravich and (Calvin) Murphy, who could wake up in the morning and already have 15 or 18 points,” Witherspoon said. “He’s a guy you could be playing tremendous defense on and he’ll still make the shot.”
BYU coach Dave Rose said comparisons to Steve Nash and Mark Price are apt, but that Fredette has a unique style all his own.
You’d hardly know Fredette was one of the most exciting players in the country by looking at him. He’s got some bulk in his upper body, but otherwise looks like a choir boy.
Growing up downstate in Glens Falls, Fredette was a chubby kid with a natural aptitude for putting the ball in the basket, and a competitive streak honed by brother T.J., who is seven years older.
“I’d always play with him and his friends,” Fredette said, “so at a young age I either had to play at that level and have confidence in my game, or sit out and watch. And I didn’t want to do that.”
Fredette and his brother also managed to be invited to play against inmates at two local correctional facilities.
“It was intimidating at first because all of the inmates are there and there are guards with rifles,” Fredette said. “It helped me to be mentally tough and not worry about what the crowd is saying.”
Fredette scored 2,404 points in his high school career, the sixth most in state history, and led Glens Falls to the Class A state championship game. He also helped the Albany City Rocks to a third place finish at the 2006 AAU National Championships.
A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with family members who lived in Utah, Fredette decided early on that BYU was his top choice attend college. But he was almost swayed to stay near home and play for Siena.
After making national headlines with a 49-point game against Arizona, a 45-point night in the Mountain West tournament, and a 37-point effort against Florida in the NCAA tournament, Fredette declared for the NBA draft. He worked out for the Knicks, Nets, Celtics and Thunder, but without a guarantee that he would be picked in the first round, he decided to return for his senior year.
“There’s a lot of things I still want to accomplish here at BYU and after BYU,” Fredette said, “so I have to keep working hard to get better.”
Contact reporter Jonah Bronstein at 282-2311, ext. 2258.