Pressure is a funny thing. Some men crumble under it. Others run away. Every once in a while, you find someone who searches for pressure, waiting for that perfect moment to just kick it right in the teeth. Everything Jimmer Fredette has done to this moment in his life tells me he is that last type. You know, the one who goes looking for a challenge. So pressure, look out. Someone is coming for you and you’d best be ready.
The Sacramento Kings have actively searched for this type of player over the last few seasons. Two years ago they all but handed out rookie of the year t-shirts before Tyreke Evans had even made it to his first January. The 19-year-old from Memphis owned it, finishing the season averaging more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game (another quality tee), while bringing home the Kings’ first rookie of the year trophy to Sacramento.
Coming into last season, the Kings turned to Kentucky big man DeMarcus Cousins, and before he even played a game, they immortalized him with a 177-foot banner on the outside of a West Sacramento sky scraper. Cousins finished the season third in rookie of the year balloting, but showed signs all season long that while he is an immense talent, maybe the Kings put a little too much pressure on a very young man.
Now there is Jimmer, another gritty player hoping to become the third building block drafted by the Kings in as many years. A franchise with a lot on the line, the Kings hope to return to prominence on the floor and drum up support for a new building to call home. That’s a lot of pressure for anyone, but this Jimmer kid seems unfazed. Maybe it has something to do with his journey.
It’s hard not to like a kid who goes to a medium security prison as a 17 and 18-year-old and plays against convicts. Sure the inmates of Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility in Wilton, New York were on their best behavior, but who does that? What 17-year-old kid walks into the big house to play a pick-up game?
Big time college scouts don’t troll the penal system looking for prospects, and they also didn’t scout Jimmer much at division II Glens Falls High School in Glens Falls, New York.
“I got recruited by a lot of smaller schools,” Jimmer said. ”Fordham, Siena College, St. Bonaventure, a lot of small Division I schools.”
And of course, Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Although he didn’t start as a freshman at BYU, there is no question he was a big part of their future. Coach Dave Rose told us here at Cowbell Kingdom that Jimmer “kind of broke the mold,” earning way more minutes than the typical freshman player at BYU.
“I wasn’t the guy right away,” said Jimmer. “I was a guy who was a bench player – a situational guy.”
But by his senior year, he was more than “the guy” and Coach Rose placed him in some elite company.
I think he is the best offensive player that has ever been on my team, either as a player or a coach, as far as his ability to just make big shots and kind of will your team out of spots during a game.
Not to add any pressure, but did Coach Rose just place Jimmer Fredette’s offensive game above his college teammates at the University of Houston, Akeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler?
Averaging 28.9 points per game as a senior was not the only thing Jimmer was busy doing. The 22-year-old entrepreneur created a brand that he brings with him to the NBA. Jimmer Mania, Fredette about it, It’s Jimmer Time! These aren’t just Jimmerisms; they’re officially licensed t-shirts slogans that you can purchase at GetJimmered.com. A bold move for a college athlete who will spend all of next season wearing around a Hello Kitty or Princess backpack as a Kings rookie.
Some folks don’t buy the hype…and probably not the t-shirt either. While I spoke with Jimmer’s father today, Al, a man who could hardly contain his excitement over his son’s amazing journey, he was quick to point out a piece that ESPN’s Rick Reilly wrote earlier in the year. Needless to say, it wasn’t a glowing report of Jimmer, the basketball player.
“Yes, he scored 32 points, but he took 29 shots to do it. He seemed to be wearing a blindfold from the 3-point arc — 3-for-15. Plus, he committed six turnovers and wandered aimlessly through the lane on defense like Moses in the desert. I’ve seen dead people play better defense. At least they occasionally trip people.”
Everyone is a critic. But few have a platform to speak from like Reilly, who according to Jimmer’s father, has a sizeable donation to a charity of Jimmer’s choosing should the Kings point guard start even one game his rookie season. There are others who’ve chimed in also, even those claiming that the Kings’ motivation for drafting Fredette has as much to do with his marketability as it does his skill – something the Kings have vehemently denied. All Jimmer can do is try to answer those questions on the floor. And the pressure grows.
“There’s tons of critics out there,” Jimmer said. ”There’s always been, my entire career and there’s some people that really like me and some that hate me. There’s both ends of the spectrum and it’s my job to go out there and hopefully make them all love me and I think I can do that.”
Jimmer politely answered every question thrown at him today. An unfamiliar media group hounded him with the mundane. They hit him with everything from what will be his signature dance move to whether he’s the next Steve Kerr. He smiled, he laughed, and through it all, he was a seasoned pro. Late in the process, he slipped out this tidbit slip.
“It’s a team game and I’m not going to just be the star right away going into this league,” he said. ”I realize that and I’m fine with that. It’s a building process.”
I’m not going to just be a star right away? Interesting line. Seems like this kid enjoys the pressure and I think Kings fans are going to like him just fine.