The 2013 NCAA Tournament came to an entertaining finish this week, with the Louisville Cardinals defeating the Michigan Wolverines at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in one of the most enthralling title games in recent memory.
The tournament may be remembered as the one where a tight-knit team rallied around their injured teammate. Kevin Ware, who suffered a horrific leg injury midway through the tournament, was a key source of inspiration for the Cardinals in their tournament run.
Inspiring players are often the galvanizing force for college basketball players. With the national spotlight often on dozens of unfamiliar schools, one player can sometimes shine brighter than the game itself.
In 2011, Brigham Young University was led by an electric scorer who sparked the Cougars to two exciting victories in the tournament.
Jimmer Fredette scored 32 points in a second-round matchup against Wofford, and then helped BYU romp perennial mid-major powerhouse Gonzaga, with a 34-point outburst.
The combo guard was close to leading BYU to the Elite Eight, but a poor overtime showing against the Florida Gators meant the Cougars would head back to Provo despite Fredette’s 32 points.
There were high expectations for Fredette when he entered the NBA Draft a few months later. So far, however, an overloaded Sacramento Kings backcourt has limited the playing time for the sharpshooter.
In his second season, Fredette is averaging just 13.7 minutes per game, and seven points per game. Those numbers are down from the shortened 2011-2012 season when Fredette averaged 18.6 minutes and 7.6 points per game.
Those numbers are rather surprising given Fredette’s skill set. A prototype catch-and-shoot perimeter player is a crucial component to nearly every NBA team’s bench. Fredette is ranked No. 11 in three-point shooting, ahead of illustrious outside shooters like Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant.
While Fredette has shot an impressive 42.4 percent from beyond the three-point arc, his playing time has actually dropped in recent weeks. In the Kings’ last 20 games, Fredette did not play in six of them. He has averaged just 11 minutes per game in March and April.
The reason for the Fredette’s lack of playing time appears mainly to be due to head coach Keith Smart’s preference to play Toney Douglas ahead of Fredette, and to give more minutes to starters.
The Kings, who may be playing their last season in Sacramento, have suffered through another miserable season. They are just four games ahead of the last-place Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference, but just one game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No.12 spot.
Sacramento’s chances of earning a playoff spot were quite slim before the season started, and aiming for a stronger finish with the playoffs out of the picture can be viewed as counter-productive. Smart could be missing a great opportunity to provide much-needed experience to young players like Fredette to strengthen the Kings’ chances of a better finish in the 2013-2014 season.
Fredette, 24, may be worth playing simply because the Kings could use him. The Kings are 11th in the NBA in three-point shooting, due in part to the efforts of Fredette. DeMarcus Cousins, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, is probably best served to be surrounded by shooters to allow him more room to operate in the paint.
Fredette’s future with the Kings may eventually come down to a trade.
There are many competitive teams who might consider adding an outside threat like Fredette. Meanwhile, the Kings may consider finally dealing some of their perimeter players to find more playing time for their best three-point shooter.