Commentary

Jimmer grows dimmer

Updated: March 25, 2011, 2:41 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Jimmer FredetteKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesIs BYU's Jimmer Fredette a college phenom destined to disappoint?

NEW ORLEANS -- So that's the end of Jimmermania. Saw it for myself. Caught the closing act. Not impressed.

Thanks to one of the worst performances of Jimmer Fredette's frabulous career -- and a set of teammates who looked like pizza delivery guys -- the BYU star took a hard fall in the Big Easy. BYU was bumped out of the Sweet Sixteen on Thursday, losing to Florida in a lopsided overtime, 83-74.

You can take off those "Romney-Fredette in 2012" T-shirts now.

Except for a stretch in the middle, when he was brilliant, Fredette was brutal.

Yes, he scored 32 points, but he took 29 shots to do it. He seemed to be wearing a blindfold from the 3-point arc -- 3-for-15. Plus, he committed six turnovers and wandered aimlessly through the lane on defense like Moses in the desert. I've seen dead people play better defense. At least they occasionally trip people.

If his last college game is what he's bringing to the NBA, then I'd say, in five years, he's got a really good chance to be your Provo area Isuzu dealer.

Great kid, though. Polite, smart (good chess player, whiz at Sudoku), studies his Bible in hotel rooms. Maybe that was the problem. Fredette and the largely Mormon BYU Nation should've never been made to come to New Orleans. You can sin just by osmosis here.

You should have seen some of them on Bourbon Street, the freshly scrubbed Cougars fans, horrified to find themselves among the window strippers, the hurricane chuggers and the bead catchers.

Then again, some of the comparisons BYU fans were making about The Jimmer this week made you think they deserved it.

"He's a little Maravich," a guy in a BYU shirt told me.

No! No, he isn't! He's not within a mile of Mardi Gras floats of Maravich. Maravich could get his shot off from the bottom of a swimming pool. He could get 40 in handcuffs. He averaged 44 points a game in college (to Fredette's 28 this season) and that's without the 3-point shot. With it, studies of his game film have shown, he would have averaged over 55.

"He's better than Danny Ainge was," a lady in a Cougars sweatshirt told me.

No! No, he isn't! Ainge was Danny Clutch (remember his Sweet 16 drive in 1981) Fredette didn't have a single game-winning shot all year. Against Florida, he didn't score a single point in the game's final eight minutes, or, for that matter, the first 13.

"I know from just watching him he's going to be a great NBA player," Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said.

No! No, he isn't!

"I know from just watching him he's going to be a great NBA player," Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook said.

No! No, he isn't!

Don't get me wrong. The Jimmer will make a modest living in the NBA. When he gets hot, he can drain them from the hotel coffee shop. He splits the double team as well as anybody in the league right now and he has a whole Santa bag of off-balance scoop shots with either hand. But until he shows more interest in defense than a blind man has in rainbows, he's going to spend most of his NBA life sitting on padded folding chairs.

To his credit, he'll have more help in the NBA than he had this season at BYU. His best rebounder, Brandon Davies, was thrown off the team for violating BYU's no-booze, no-sex, no-caffeine honor code, which meant it was pretty much Jimmer or nothing against the tall trees of Florida. He never came out once in the first 44 minutes and had to fire up shots through the tiniest cracks of light allowed to him by the Gators. He wore out. He fired up two 3s from at least six feet behind the arc in the overtime and missed them both, badly. Then again, he had a cut in his chin that looked like something George Foreman had left and his calf was killing him. But when his teammates really needed him, at the end of regulation, on defense, Jimmer really hit the dimmer.

Florida missed a trey with 24 seconds to go and Fredette's man, Erving Walker, who stands only 5-6, beat him to the long rebound. It wasn't hard. Fredette was nowhere to be found. I'm not even sure Fredette knew who his man was the entire night. Florida wound up with a reset and the last shot.

"If we'd have gotten it, we'd have had about eight seconds left differential," Fredette said. "I'd have had the ball in my hands at the end."

Note to Jimmer: To get the ball, one must occasionally check one's man and/or box said man out. One did neither.

"The weird thing is, [his defense] has gotten progressively worse over the year," says Fredette's own teammate, Nick Martineau. "From the start, he's never really been accountable to it, but it's just gotten looser as the year's gone on. But he can play defense. He really can. He'll definitely tighten it up for the NBA."

He'd better.

"I just want to take a couple weeks off and then start getting ready to try to make an NBA team," said the man who probably will be voted about five player of the year awards. "That's my dream, to make an NBA team."

Fine. That he can do. But you think this barely 6-2 kid with no speed and YMCA hops can be the next Maravich or Ainge or Westbrook?

Fredette about it.


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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.


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