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Up Close with Jimmer Fredette

Giving His Best Shot

Jamie Lawson - January 24, 2012

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Photo by Michael Schoenfeld for LDS Living, 2011/2012.

Jimmer Fredette has dedicated his life to becoming the best basketball player—and the best person— he can be. Get an inside look of what drives the Jimmer in this excerpt of our January/February cover story.

(Check out photo galleries of Jimmer here and here. You can also watch a video from our photo shoot and read a personal blog post about our managing editor's experience with Jimmer.)

On January 26, 2011, Jimmermania reached fever pitch.

At BYU’s Marriott Center, nearly 23,000 people watched Jimmer Fredette, a small-town boy from upstate New York and the nation’s leading scorer, sink 43 points against the undefeated San Diego State Aztecs. The crowd erupted with increased intensity as he scored shot after shot, breaking the Marriott Center scoring record for three-pointers and leading BYU to a 71–58 victory in what was dubbed the most important game in Mountain West Conference history. After the buzzer, thousands of fans rushed the floor, and security had to protect the 6-foot 2-inch point guard from the tidal wave of people screaming his name.

“I felt like a rock star at that moment,” Fredette recalls. “I’d never experienced that before.”

After that game, Fredette’s name was everywhere. It was a verb. It was an adjective. Phrases like “You got Jimmered” and “scoring from ‘Jimmer range’” became instantly prolific. It was no surprise that after his phenomenal junior and senior years at BYU, Fredette was the number-10 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, landing a spot with the Sacramento Kings. His lifelong goal of becoming an NBA player is now a reality—a goal he had been working toward since he was five years old.

A Little Kid with Big Dreams
James Taft Fredette, a.k.a. Jimmer, was born in Glens Falls, New York, on February 25, 1989. The  youngest of three children, he grew up in a tight-knit family with his sister, Lindsay, his brother, TJ, and his parents, Al and Kay. From a very early age, it was clear that Fredette, a chunky, curly-haired kid with  chubby cheeks, was blessed with remarkable physical ability and fierce determination.

“I was always around sports, so that’s probably what gave me a really competitive spirit when I was younger,” he explains. “People would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I would always tell them I wanted to be an NBA player. A lot of kids say that, but for some reason I feel like I was different. I never saw myself doing anything else.”

Recognizing his talent and passion for basketball, Fredette’s parents allowed him to bounce basketballs throughout the house and even built a dribbling studio for him in their basement. His uncle, Lee Taft, a personal trainer, had him running drills at age five. But perhaps what has given Fredette his greatest athletic advantage is his relationship with his brother, TJ, who is seven years older.

Bond of Brothers
“There was a special bond between us from the beginning,” says TJ Fredette. “I thought it was the  coolest thing in the world to be a big brother. I loved his company—just a little guy who was always tagging along.”

Whenever TJ played basketball with his friends, Jimmer was on the court, too. In fact, Jimmer became accustomed to playing against older, more experienced athletes, which helped him hone his skills. Soon he was a real competitor and consistently played up one or two divisions.

“Jimmer had great hand-eye coordination and he was really fast,” TJ recalls. “I thought, ‘If we work with him, he’ll be a monster someday.’”

So TJ did work with him, creating all kinds of unconventional drills to help Jimmer develop a physical and mental edge over his opponents. TJ even made arrangements for them to play basketball with the inmates at a nearby prison. “The games were really intense. We were playing against grown men who were really strong,” he says. “It was a hostile environment, so I figured nothing else would bother Jimmer after playing that crowd. It was a great experience for him.”

“TJ made basketball fun for me,” says Jimmer. “He made me want to practice. I wanted to play because he wanted to play. I wanted to be in the NBA because he did, too. As he got older, he saw that it wasn’t going to happen for him, so he thought that if he worked as hard as he could with me, I could make it into the NBA and a part of him would be there with me.”

By his junior year in high school, Jimmer had become a local celebrity, garnering constant media attention for his outstanding athletic performance. TJ grew concerned about the increasing pressure his younger brother was under, so he devised a way to keep Jimmer focused on his NBA dreams. “I knew the pressure would only get worse,” says TJ. “He’s always been a shy, reserved kid, and I wanted to  know if he could handle it. So I wrote a contract for him to sign, where he agreed to do whatever it took to reach his ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.”

On January 27, 2007, at their regular workout, TJ pulled the contract out of his pocket and asked Jimmer to sign it. “When it first happened, I kind of laughed,” says Jimmer. “He had clearly just written it seconds beforehand. We both signed it, though, and I put it above my bed. I saw it every night and every  morning. It would remind me to work as hard as I can for my goal. It turned out to be something that was really smart. It’s still hanging there on my wall.”

Despite earning several prestigious accolades in high school, including being ranked among the top 75 shooting guards by ESPN and ranking sixth on New York state’s all-time scoring list, Fredette received little attention from college recruiters. Still, he received offers from 12 schools, including Brigham Young University. So the Glens Falls Indian chose to become a BYU Cougar.

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© LDS Living, January/February 2012.
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