Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bidding Adieu to "The Jimmer"

I wrote the following blog piece as an application to write for a local sports blog. Let's hope they like it! (I hope y'all like it too)

With seven minutes to go in BYU’s sweet 16 matchup, the Cougars were down 55-61 to the Florida Gators. BYU hadn’t scored in over 3 minutes. Cougar fans across the nation were on the edge of their seats. Three free throws and a layup later, BYU found themselves down just two points. Then after two missed Florida shots, Kyle Collinsworth pulled down his 11th rebound and threw the quick outlet to Jimmer, who quickly sized up his opponent.  The whole arena held its breath as Fredette did what he does best; pulled up on a dime and with a flick of his wrist, drained a 30-foot jump shot to tie the game at 63-63.  Florida called a quick timeout. The Cougars finally had what they looked for all game. Momentum. Fredette finished regulation by scoring 11 of the Cougars final 13 points to send the game into overtime. The extra period began much the way the game did. The Cougars struggled to make shots. The Gators burned up the nets and shot 5-7 from the field and 2-3 from 3pt range. In the waning minutes of the game, Jimmer turned the ball over and then missed a three point shot.  His eyes showed his competitiveness. He wasn’t giving up. After another turnover and another missed 3-point jumper, the wheels to the Jimmer Fredette bandwagon finally wore off. The eventual player of the year skidded to a stop in New Orleans. Coach Dave Rose subbed out Fredette, who left the court to a standing ovation. The final buzzer in The Jimmer’s college career sounded.  

      Four years earlier Jimmer Fredette was just a kid from a small town in New York.  Many fans jumped on the Jimmer bandwagon before he even got to Provo. They hailed his uncanny ability to score and his New York Section II scoring record of 2,404 points. Others were unsure if his abilities would transition into the tougher college game. During his freshman year he proved he could play and BYU fans got their first glimpse of what he would become. He set the stage for the rest of his career when he came off the bench during BYU’s 1st round NCAA tournament loss and played 30 minutes.  His fearlessness kept the Cougars close until the final minutes. This was just the beginning.
            As a sophomore Fredette started 32 of BYU’s 33 games and went on to win 1st Team All-MWC honors, the first BYU point guard to do so since Marty Haws in 1990. Fredette’s status of “just a kid” changed as he wowed fans with games like his 23 point 9 assist performance against nationally ranked Wake Forest. There, he nearly out-dueled feature NBA point guard Jeff Teague.  Later, Fredette would further up his status with 28 point performances against Wyoming and then on the road against SDSU. Jimmer was so new to the scene SDSU player Lorenzo Wade said, "There is no excuse for letting Jimmer Fredette come in here and score 28 points; that's impossible.” Jimmer later showed SDSU and Mr. Wade that not only is it possible, it’s possible to do it multiple times and in SDSU’s own house.
            Jimmer’s junior year was by all means a breakout year. Fredette hit the National scene by scoring a BYU record 49 points at the McKale center in Arizona. Jimmer started the conference schedule scoring 30 points almost every night until his toughest defender of the year, mononucleosis, slowed him down for a few weeks.  On March 11th it looked like he’d regained his strength as he scored 45 points in the MWC semifinal to beat TCU. One week later he captured America’s attention by scoring 37 points in the first round of the NCAA tournament and beating Florida in double overtime, giving BYU its first NCAA tournament win since 1993.
            By the time Fredette began his senior year, the whole country knew name. He was a first-team, preseason All- American.  BYU students camped outside the Marriot center in the freezing weather just to see him play. When he scored 33 points in the first half of a road game against Utah his name became verb. His stoic look as he turned to face the camera after nailing a half-court shot at the buzzer is the stuff of legends.  His 43 points against rival SDSU at home put him squarely atop the NPOY race.  One BYU student dared to accuse Jimmer fans of “idol worshiping” and she was greeted with hundreds of comments on her Facebook wall the next morning.
After beating SDSU again on the road, tragedy struck the Cougars and it seemed as if all was lost. Star Center Brandon Davies was dismissed from the team for honor code violations. BYU fans everywhere thought the sky was falling. The team stumbled through the end of the season, losing to New Mexico at home before recovering against Wyoming.  After a close game against TCU in the MWC quarterfinals, BYU fans found themselves wondering if their chance at the sweet 16 had passed them by. Seven three pointers and 52 points later, Jimmer reminded the fans to “doubt not.” That day in Las Vegas Fredette went from super-star to hero. Later he led his team to the Sweet 16 and cemented his legend in BYU lore by taking home every major Player of the Year award.
            Jimmer Fredette may be a college super-star and even a legend in Provo, but if you happen to see him on the street, he’s just a kid. His humble, kind attitude will win you over in a heartbeat. That’s why Jimmer is Jimmer. Not just because of his super-human ability to can three pointers from the half court logo or break ankles with his cross-over, but his super-human ability to make you like him. It’s his smile when he waves to the camera after getting knocked over on national television.  We love Jimmer because he was the best college basketball player in America and the biggest star to play basketball for the Cougars since Danny Ainge 20 years ago. But we also love Jimmer because he’s still the same kid who stepped on campus 4 years ago. He’s the same guy who works his tail off every day because he loves the game.
      So if you’re still sitting on your couch thinking about the last time you saw The Jimmer put on his Cougar blue and you wonder if it will be another 20 years before you see it again, as the anonymous proverb states, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” 

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