The Summer of Jimmer
No one wants to get back on the court more than Jimmer Fredette. This is a kid who has made a living proving people wrong. He is a self-made man who has worked tirelessly to make a career out of the game he loves.
Last season wasn’t the fairy tale story he dreamed of. There was no summer league and training camp was abbreviated due to the lockout. After being taken 10th overall last year, Jimmer lost major playing time to fellow rookie Isaiah Thomas, the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He faced losing, a coaching change, fluctuating playing time and adversity that maybe he wasn’t ready for.
“Rookies it was especially tough to get used to that transition,” Fredette said following mini camp on Tuesday. “And then we had a coaching change, so it was a little bit different from our position…”
It doesn’t help that Jimmer had faced plenty external pressure as well. Outside of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former Naismith Award winner is probably the LDS church’s best-known member. He’s heard plenty of cheers as he walked into gyms all over the country, but he is a lightning rod for fans. For every BYU jersey in the stands, there were just as many hecklers.
With ups and downs on the court, Jimmer was buoyed by the support of his family who became staples at Power Balance Pavilion. His then-fiancée Whitney, visited as often as possible, as did his agent Chris Emens. There were trials and tribulations in year one – much more than anyone could’ve expected.
This is a season that starts anew this week in Las Vegas. Gone are the rookie jitters and obvious attempts to fit in. It is time for Jimmer to take the reigns and earn his role with this young Sacramento Kings team. It’s time for him to be the player the Kings thought they drafted a season ago.
“I’m looking forward, like I said, to having a full summer league,” Jimmer said. “A full training camp and getting back at it.”
The Kings appear to be looking forward to see what their first-round pick from a year ago has to offer. Jimmer is expected to get plenty of playing time in Las Vegas.
“He’s going to have the ball in his hands at the end of games and in game situations,” said assistant coach Bobby Jackson, who along with Alex English is in charge of this year’s summer league team . “He’s got to learn how to make calls, who’s hot and who’s not. That’s a big part of being a point guard…”
There is a new confidence to Jimmer’s game, which was clear on day one. Maybe it’s the experience of a season under his belt or the faith the Kings are showing in him as a player, but he needs to carry this into training camp and the regular season.
“I’m excited (for the opportunity), Jimmer said. “Obviously I want to go out and play the best I can, show my abilities out there, gain some confidence and just show them what I can do on the basketball floor when I get out there and get a lot of playing time.”
Rookie Thomas Robinson has been playing alongside Jimmer and he is impressed with what he’s seen so far.
“I love him,” Robinson said. “He’s a good player. He’s definitely one of the smarter players out here and he knows a lot from just being in the league one year.”
The Kings have a laundry list of things they want improved. First and foremost, they want Jimmer to relax and get more comfortable as a primary guard. While they are hoping to see growth in his decision-making, they don’t want to take away what made him a great college player. He needs to stay aggressive and stretch the floor with his shooting.
“They still want me to play my game,” Fredette said. “That’s what got me here and that’s what they want me to do. They want me to be aggressive at the point guard position.”
Clearly Jimmer’s game is as an offensive weapon. And while he has worked on skills like floaters and shooting off the screen and roll, there has also been an emphasis on defense. Coach Keith Smart visited Fredette in Colorado and a part of his focus was to improve Jimmer’s lateral quickness to get in better defensive position.
Hopefully the extra work pays off. As for off the court, much like Thomas, Jimmer has had a busy off-season as well. The 23-year-old married his college sweetheart on June 1 and she is ready to begin a new life here in Sacramento with him this season.
“Being married is great,” Jimmer said with a big smile. “I have a great wife. She keeps me going and she’s definitely going to help me out this year.”
This is the summer of Jimmer. Everything is falling into place for this young man. Let’s hope it translates to basketball court.