Growing Up with Jimmer Fredette: Everything You Didn't Know
At age five Jimmer Fredette wasn’t your usual kindergartner as he was attending Varsity basketball practices with his older brother. Jimmer would go to all the practices watching all of the drills and the players every move. “He didn’t really play with us, but just being around the older kids and seeing what it’s like and what it takes to be good, definitely helped him in his preparation,” said head basketball coach Tony Hammel from Glens Falls High School. Even though at age five Jimmer’s heart was old enough to play with the Varsity team his age wasn’t. However being the ball boy/team manager was satisfying enough as he was one of the guys.
Jimmer’s older brother TJ, a player on the Glen Falls basketball team, began training his little brother starting with the basics. Though as Jimmer started to get more serious about basketball his brother made him sign a contract. “Basically what it said is that he would do everything that he could possibly do to try and reach his ultimate goal of playing the NBA,” said TJ Fredette. “And I made him sign it and see it everyday so he could have that reminder of what his goal was.”
As Jimmer started to grow he would begin playing pick up games with his older brother and his brother’s friends who were several years older. “Well my friends, they were all really close to me so all of them considered Jimmer like their little brother too, so we all wanted him to get better,” said TJ Fredette. “You know once in a while he wouldn’t be able to play if we ran something serious because we didn’t want him to get hurt or anything like that but for the most part we would try to include him so that he could get better.”
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Not only was Jimmer’s competition level increasing with his age but the drills were as well. One of the drills that his brother made him do was dribble down a narrow church hallway at the Glen Falls Ward in the dark. It was called the Gauntlet. “I would make him dribble up and down this dark hallway so I could make him learn to keep his head up and his dribble tight,” said TJ Fredette. His brother originally came up with the Gauntlet one day as he was walking down the hallway dribbling a basketball when he stopped and thought “wow this would be a great drill if I turned the lights off and made him dribble in here. It’s such a narrow space and it would be so dark that it would just test his skills,” said TJ Fredette.
Another drill that they would do mostly during the winter and during the bad weather was they would go downstairs into their basement into a room called the dribbling studio. It was a room that was set up with hard floors for them to dribble on surrounded with mirror walls so that they could see their every movement.
After all the long days and the intense drills, in eighth grade Jimmer would get to do what he was waiting to do since he was five years old—play Varsity basketball for Glen Falls High School. I actually brought him [Jimmer] up as an 8th grader at the end of the year when we went to sectionals. We had a good team that year—we won our section and then went onto regionals and then made it to the State Tournament eventually losing in the Finals,” said Coach Hammel. “But being able to travel with us to all of those games and get a taste of what it’s like to get to that level because we knew the group that he was with was hopefully going to do the same thing next year and as it turned out did they do the same thing.” That next year Jimmer would come back and start as a freshman for Coach Hammel. “He had a lot of baby fat on him but he was still a good athlete with a lot of good basketball skills,” said Coach Hammel.
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Not only was Jimmer a great player on the hardwood but on the gridiron he was just the same if not better. In his junior year at Glen Falls High School, Jimmer was named first team Class A All-State and the Post Star Newspapers all-area player of the year. “Shortly after his season ended I received multiple phone calls from Division I Schools in regards to Jimmer,” said Varsity Football Coach Pat Lilac. “An assistant Penn State football coach visited Glens Falls and talked to him about playing both football and basketball. However after speaking to Jimmer about this he said he had no interest in playing college football and wanted to concentrate on basketball. He told me his ultimate goal was to play in the NBA.”
The following year Jimmer would decide not to play football and to focus 100 percent on basketball. In doing so he was ready to do whatever his brother TJ was going to put in front of him, even if it was going to prison. “A friend of mine’s uncle ran things in prison and he used to bring us in, he brought in a lot of people to do things from the outside just to interact with the inmates so he set it up for us,” said TJ Fredette. The thing or things that he set up were basketball games for Jimmer and his brother with the inmates.
“The first time you know its pretty intimidating going into a prison setting with all the inmates around the barbwire, the locked doors, the guards and the whole nine,” said TJ Fredette. “So it’s intimidating the first time but you get used to it, and it eventually became kind of normal because we did it so often that we just got used to it.” It became a normal routine that the inmates and Jimmer began to grow relationships that would eventually turn into fans. “I think it helped him mentally and physically to be able to play in that type of environment you have to be mentally tough and also physically tough because you have big strong grown men that play very aggressive, so it was good for his mental and the physical aspect,” said TJ Fredette.
That year Jimmer would lead his team to a 25-2 record and take them all the way to the State Championship game just like he watched his former teammates do as an eighth grader. The team that they would lose to, Peekskill High School, was led by current Syracuse Orange player Mookie Jones.
Jimmer would now have to make a life changing decision as it was time to sign off on his next destination, college. With his family right behind him Jimmer would decide to go to BYU. “We always did it every step of the way with him just helping him, guiding him, directing him and giving him our advice and it worked out great. I think it definitely worked out great, perfectly,” said TJ Fredette.
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