His name is as versatile as his game. It's a noun: An Arizona fan praised the Wildcats' defense for not letting a big-time scorer "pull a Jimmer." It's a verb: YOU GOT JIMMERED! read a sign waved in the BYU student section. It's an adjective: "He was making some Jimmer Fredette threes!" gushed Syracuse's Scoop Jardine about the six bombs Cincinnati's Dion Dixon hit from beyond the arc. Jimmer has several definitions in the Urban Dictionary, including this: One who is in range as soon as he steps off the bus.
Things could not be going more Jimmerly (to introduce the adverb) of late for cherub-cheeked BYU senior Jimmer Fredette, 21, who has been roving the West like a gunslinger with a grudge. On Jan. 5, the 6'2" point guard blistered UNLV for 39 points in an 89--77 win, the Cougars' first at the Thomas & Mack Center since 2005. Six days later he walked into the raucous Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City and dropped 47 on bitter rival Utah—including a holy-cow, 40-foot buzzer-beater to cap a 32-point first half—in a 104--79 rout. And last Saturday he racked up 42 at Colorado State in a 94--85 Mountain West Conference victory that lifted No. 9 BYU to 19--1.
It's not just that Fredette leads the country in scoring, with 26.7 points per game through Sunday, while shooting 47.6% from the field, 41.0% from deep and 90.0% from the line. It's the way he scores that's making his final season one for the hoops lexicon. Facing the opposition's best defender (or, more often, defenders), he pulls up going right or going left. He shoots off the dribble, off the wrong foot, off balance, off the glass. He finishes in traffic with a dozen deft moves, including a funky scoop shot, originating from his waist, that he can make with either hand. "He gets shots off that you don't think can possibly go in because he doesn't elevate a ton and he's not super quick," says BYU senior guard Jackson Emery. "But he is super crafty. I don't know how he plans it out in his mind, but it's fascinating to watch."
Sometimes there appears to be no planning at all. With BYU up 22--7 against TCU on Jan. 18, Fredette was near half-court when he briefly turned to his bench, then took two casual dribbles and launched a 30-footer that snapped the net. The Marriott Center crowd went nuts.
"The best way to defend him," says TCU coach Jim Christian, "is to try to keep the ball out of his hands." Fredette's most dangerous weapon, adds Utes coach Jim Boylen, "is his swagger and confidence."
Not every player with the talent to score 40 will keep attacking the way Fredette does. "Pete Maravich was the greatest at that," says Villanova coach Jay Wright. "Players like Maravich and Jimmer, it's like they have stronger mental conditioning. They can keep going with that aggressive mentality for a longer period of time."
Swaggering, confident, aggressive. Sounds like an annoying ball hog, right? But that may be the true wizardry of Fredette: He is fiercely competitive while remaining unassuming and likable. Even Fredette's victims find him hard to resist. After Fredette scored 49 points at Arizona last season, Wildcats coach Sean Miller didn't shake his hand; he gave him a hug. Utah fans gave him an ovation as he left the court after his virtuoso performance earlier this month. "I told the staff in a meeting a couple years ago," says BYU coach Dave Rose, "that if Jimmer's personality stays the same and he keeps playing like he's playing, he's going to be a story like Steph Curry or Larry Bird, where everyone wants to see him play and wants to be around him."
Like Maravich, Bird and Curry, the star of Davidson's Cinderella run in the 2009 NCAA tournament, Fredette has achieved a rare, almost mythical, college basketball celebrity. It doesn't hurt that Jimmer's older brother, TJ, a rapper, has provided a sound track to his career, a song called Amazing, which can be found on YouTube accompanied by a video montage of Fredette as a kid and as a Cougar. "I listen to TJ all the time, and so do my friends," says Fredette, whose other preferred entertainments include chess, sudoku and "movies that make me think."
It also doesn't hurt that BYU's scant TV exposure gives Fredette's exploits the whiff of fable. If you live outside the Mountain West region or are otherwise occupied on Feb. 26, the date of BYU's one nationally televised game, at San Diego State on CBS, you may have to wait for March Madness to see Fredette in full. Yet what has been a loss for college basketball fans nationwide has been a boon to the bars and restaurants of Glens Falls, N.Y., Fredette's hometown. So many people crowd into the DirectTV-equipped establishments on Cougars game nights that city council members have joked about giving Fredette this year's economic-development award.
Fredette appreciates his fans, but it's his skeptics who bring out the best in him. Of his 14 career games of 30 or more points, 13 have been away from Provo. (That includes his sensational performance during the first round of last year's NCAA tournament, when he dropped 37 on Florida in a 99--92 double-overtime win at Oklahoma City.) Fredette welcomes hostility, embraces dismissal, relishes doubt. "Honestly, I feel more comfortable on the road," he says. "I take the heckling as a compliment." And the sudden hush that falls over a crowd when he hits a big three? "That's my favorite sound."