By Brian Kotloff, NBADLeague.com
— “I tried to just do what I always do,” Fredette says after dazzling, 37-point debut —
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – There is only one way to describe what happened on Monday night at the Westchester County Center: Jimmer Fredette was Jimmer-ing again.
It had been a long time since the baby-faced kid from Glens Falls, N.Y., looked like he did on the court just a three-hour drive south of his hometown. There Jimmer was again, speed-dribbling from the baseline to the three-point arc, pulling up from deep and launching. There he was, crossing over once, twice, three times en route to a floating layup. There he was, smiling and enjoying the game again.
“I haven’t seen Jimmer in a basketball game with actual sweat on his face in a long time,” his wife Whitney tweeted. “Makes me so happy. Don’t care about the circumstance.”
I haven't seen Jimmer in a basketball game with actual sweat on his face in a long time.Makes me so happy. Don't care about the circumstance
— Whitney Fredette (@whitneyfredette) December 1, 2015
The circumstance was all that had changed. Jimmer was not wearing BYU’s blue and white on Monday night, but the white, orange and blue of the Westchester Knicks, the New York Knicks’ NBA Development League affiliate. He was not capturing the hearts of America, just trying to reintroduce himself to NBA scouts and perhaps regain the confidence he’s lost during his thus far disappointing pro career.
The first, small step of that process is complete: Fredette scored 37 points in Westchester’s 102-90 win over the Grand Rapids Drive. He weaved into the paint, distributed to his teammates, competed defensively, and overall was in total command of the action.
It was a familiar feeling for a player who was a national sensation as recently as five years ago, yet one that he said he needed to experience again.
“It was great to be able to go out there and just play,” Fredette said.
Before and after his wildly successful debut, that was what the 26-year-old stressed was the main difference between his college and pro careers: Playing time. Opportunity.
He laughed when asked about the last time he played 40 minutes – his total on Monday. College, he guessed.
In fact, during his 229 career NBA games for three different teams over four seasons, he played more than 30 minutes in just five. His career NBA high of 24 points came in 27 minutes at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 12, 2014; he played four minutes the next game.
“I think I just need to get some consistent minutes. I haven’t been able to find that in any of the places I’ve been,” said Fredette, who has been bought out by the Kings, let go by the Bulls and Pelicans, and waived by the Spurs.
On Oct. 31, the Knicks selected him with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA D-League Draft. On Nov. 10, he re-signed with the injury-plagued Pelicans. On Nov. 19, they waived him after he did not appear in a game, and on Saturday he officially re-joined Westchester, with two practices to prepare for Monday’s game.
“I’ve been all over the place. Sometimes that happens for people in this league – for a lot of guys in this league, actually. It’s all about sticking with it, staying with the grind, and not worrying too much about what happened in the past. Keep moving forward.”
— NBA D-League (@nbadleague) December 1, 2015
It remains to be seen how much of a step forward Fredette is capable of taking. For one night at least, he thrived against a team led by ex-NBA players Lorenzo Brown, Devin Ebanks and Henry Sims. He lit up the scoreboard and chatted with Floyd Mayweather, the night’s surprise courtside guest. Six family members – Fredette’s mother, father, brother, aunt, uncle and cousin – also looked on from the stands.
But did Jimmer feel like he was back in college?
“When I step out there,” Fredette said, “I just try to be aggressive, take what each game presents. That’s what I try to do, whether it was at BYU or when I was in the NBA. When I stepped out there, I tried to just do what I always do.”