Last night, #4 San Siego State visited #9 BYU. San Diego State had not lost a game all season, but they had also not come across the newest--seemingly--unstoppable force in college basketball: sharpshooting BYU senior Jimmer Fredette.
Fredette scorched San Diego State to the tune of 43 points on 14-24 shooting, including 5-8 from three-point territory. It was the latest in a series of ridiculous stat-lines by Fredette who leads division-1 college basketball in scoring at 27.4 points per game. All season, murmurs about the prodigious scoring ability of Fredette had popped up on websites, blogs, and Twitter, but it wasn't until his latest performance, on a nationally televised stage, that the whole world took notice.
Fredette's stat lines are currently garnering comparisons to former college basketball standouts like Pistol Pete Maravich, Wally Szczerbiak, J.J. Reddick, Adam Morrison, and the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry--all players who were drafted high and have gone on to careers in the NBA.
Now Fredette stands among those players, possibly even above them if players such as Oklahoma City thunder forward Kevin Durant-- who called Fredette the best scorer in the world last night--are to be believed.
But is Fredette destined for stardom at the NBA level? If history is any indication, probably not. The story of Adam Morrison is well-worn material, but is potentially the most relevant to Fredette. Morrison played college basketball in a mid-major conference at Gonzaga and put up tantalizing numbers. However, during the NCAA tournament, he was never able to lead his team to victory when facing foes from the major conferences. When he got to the NBA after being drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats, Morrison's lack of athleticism and lack of defensive skills doomed him to a life on the bench. Injuries to his knees sealed his fate and Morrison is currently a free agent and is unlikely to make an NBA comeback.
Fredette is similar to Morrison in that he is less athletic than your typical NBA prospect but his ability to score in a wide variety of ways will convince an NBA team to take a chance on him. These teams will be hoping that Fredette could emulate the careers of J.J. Reddick with the Orlando Magic or Stephen Curry of the Warriors.
Reddick--like Morrison--was a star at Duke University and possessed NBA-caliber shooting ability. However, when he came into the league, he had a much greater difficulty scoring and had to reinvent his game in order to find success. Reddick was able to do so by becoming a specialty player who could play off teammates who can facilitate an offense like Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, allowing Reddick to play more of a shoot and catch game. Reddick's commitment to improving on defense also greatly helped his chances and now he is an important part of the Orlando Magic squad.
Curry apprenticed at Davidson--again, similar to Morrison--a small school, and showed a preternatural ability to shoot a basketball. However, Curry came into the NBA in the perfect situation as a member of the freewheeling, fast and loose Golden State Warriors. On the Warriors Curry is free to focus exclusively on offense and his shooting and scoring talents have carried over.
If Jimmer Fredette is to find success in the NBA, he'll have to follow the path of Reddick and rebuild his game through defense and hard work or land on a team capable of working his style of play into their system like Curry. We'll know more about the probably direction of his career after this summer's NBA draft.
Jimmer Fredette is having an amazing season for BYU and should be proud of his accomplishments, but he's likely to have a less remarkable career in the NBA, and there's nothing wrong with that. We don't know it now, but we could be witnessing the start of something, while not exceptional, certainly unique; something like the second coming of Steve Kerr.