Jimmer Fredette went off for 47 points against the Utah Utes last night. It marked the third time Fredette has put up over 40 points in a single game during his fantastic career at BYU, and the 12th time he's gone over 30.
This year alone, he's eclipsed 20 points in 14 of his 18 games, and he's currently leading the nation in scoring at 26.1 points per game. He's shooting 48 percent from the field, 41 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line.
However, scoring isn't all Jimmer can do. At 4.4 assists per game, he leads his team and is fourth in that category in the Mountain West Conference.
Anyone who has watched Jimmer play in the last couple years (and especially this year), knows that he has superb ball-handling skills and a very deep repertoire of offensive moves that he uses to not only get open for jump shots, but to get to the rim as well.
So why is Fredette not getting much attention, and why do the "experts" still project him to be, at best, a late second-round draft pick? Why does ESPN's NBA Draft "guru" Chad Ford have Jimmer ranked as the 48th best prospect?
There are two very basic reasons. The first is the fact that he plays in the Mountain West Conference for a team that gets little national exposure. The second is the same issue that every white, American guard has to deal with: They're automatically dismissed because they're said to lack athleticism and quickness.
Playing for BYU
Even though this team has been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four years and is currently ranked 10th in the nation, its still a rarity to see them on national television. Even as a resident of Wyoming, I'm not guaranteed a lot of exposure to the Cougars.
Last night, I received a text message from my brother that read, "Jimmer Fredette has 32 points after one half of play?!" I didn't even know the game was being broadcast on a local station called The MountainWest Sports Network (which isn't even available to basic cable subscribers in my area).
I watched the second half of the game and actually thought he looked a bit off. Then, by the end of the game I realized he had still scored 15 points in that half and ended the game with 47.
I've seen Jimmer play several times, and if basketball fans all over the country had the opportunity to watch him play as much as I have, they'd know what I know: He's without a doubt one of the best players in the country.
Playing with a Stigma
Every time a white, American basketball player enters the national basketball conversation, he's instantly tagged as a prospect that lacks quickness and lateral quickness. In fact, those two things are exactly what ESPN's Chad Ford lists as Fredette's weaknesses.
I have no doubt that Ford has not seen as much footage of Fredette as he has of other prospects he has ranked ahead of him. Fredette has weaknesses, but those certainly aren't his biggest ones. Try telling Utah's 6'7" Will Clyburn that Fredette lacks lateral quickness. Even with his length and athleticism, he could not stay in front of Jimmer on defense.
There may not be another player in the country that possesses as much scoring ability as Fredette, but all we'll hear about him leading up to the draft is the same old argument: no athleticism or lateral quickness.
Even if Jimmer does get drafted, it will be extremely difficult for him to escape the stigma. Just ask J.J. Redick and Tyler Hansbrough.
Two of the greatest scorers in the history of the celebrated Atlantic Coast Conference, both have struggled more than players with their talent should for playing time.
Redick wasn't played for 15 minutes per game until his third season and didn't get 20 minutes per game until his fourth year. This despite averaging nearly 15 points per 36 minutes over his career, while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.
We were told that Redick couldn't get on the floor in his first few years because he couldn't defend at this level (because he lacked athleticism and lateral quickness, of course). However, if you watch any footage from Redick's early years, it's clear that he worked hard on defense and stayed in front of his man as well as most NBA shooting guards.
As for Tyler Hansbrough, he's averaging less than 15 minutes per game this year. He was recently inserted into the starting lineup for Indiana, and he's showing that he should have been given that role long ago. He's started the last three games. During those contests, he's averaged 15 points and 8.7 rebounds in 28 minutes per game.
Both Redick and Hansbrough were seen as draft mistakes by many because they (you guessed it) lacked athleticism and lateral quickness.
Fredette will almost certainly face many of the same challenges.
Nation's Best Point Guard
Regarding the title of this article: I don't think it's a stretch to say Fredette may be the nation's top point guard. As I mentioned before, he leads the country in scoring, and he leads his team in assists.
His average of 4.4 assists per game sounds good, but not great. However, you can't take that number at face value. NBA rules make it easier to collect assists, because players receiving the pass are allowed to do more before scoring than they are in the NCAA for it to still qualify as an assist.
Also, if Fredette played for a team with more scoring options, his points would be down, but his assists would be up. He just happens to be in a situation and system that displays his scoring ability more than his distributing ability.
To really get a feel for how good Jimmer's ballhandling, passing and floor vision are, you have to watch some BYU games. Those of you who haven't seen him, you'll get your chance in March.
By that time, we may not only be saying he's the best point guard in the nation, but the best player at any position. In fact, Trevor Kapp of Dime Magazine is already proclaiming Jimmer to be the best player in the country.
With each huge game, Fredette is slowly but surely improving his draft stock. I expect him to continue to dominate as BYU enters conference play and eventually the NCAA Tournament. Once there, some national attention should finally come his way.
BYU will need to win a game or two in the tournament to really get the kind of exposure Jimmer needs. With the way this team is playing right now, don't be surprised if they do that, and maybe even more.
I feel that Fredette not only has what it takes to be in the NBA, but to be an impact player as well. I've even gone so far as to compare him to Steve Nash.
Others feel his game reminds them of Stephen Curry. Even Curry himself has talked about Fredette and feels he can compete at the next level.
He has the shooting, ball-handling and passing skills to be very productive in the NBA. Just ask his brother TJ Fredette.
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