Ball Don't Lie

Jimmer Fredette thinks marriage will help him become a better NBA player

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Jimmer Fredette married longtime girlfriend Whitney Wonnacott in June. (Screencap via Twigs and a Pearl)

After the Sacramento Kings made him the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft on the strength of a collegiate reputation built scoring buckets at BYU, Jimmer Fredette entered the professional ranks with staggering levels of both hype and skepticism surrounding his game. The skeptics got the better of things during his rookie season, as Fredette fell short of fulfilling (unreasonably high) expectations and struggled to provide backcourt bang for a languishing Kings team. As he enters his second year, Fredette's reportedly doubled down on his offseason preparation, working on improving his often unimpressive defense and finding space without the ball to be able to contribute alongside point guards Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks.

He also got married to former BYU cheerleader/Cruella de Vil enthusiast Whitney Wonnacott in a June 3 ceremony that was reportedly lovely and briefly caused a UFO scare, as most fine receptions do. Interestingly enough, during a stop on a preseason book tour promoting "The Contract," the new book written by Y! colleague Pat Forde on Fredette's journey to the pros, the former BYU star told Dick Harmon of the Deseret News that he thinks becoming a married man might help him step his game up as much as, if not more than, all that offseason work on the pick-and-roll:

Fredette said his summer marriage to Whitney, a former BYU cheerleader, is the best decision he's made and will help him in the NBA. He says marriage has changed him a lot and having a partner to share his ups and downs will prove valuable.

"Whitney is an amazing girl and so supportive of me and now when I travel, she can travel with me so I don't have to go at it alone and don't have to worry about that part of my life and she will be there to support me just like I will be there to support her. "

Fredette said thinking and worrying about basketball all the time can, sometimes, hurt a player. "The last three months has been great and I'm excited in what the future holds. Whitney is the best, she is so kind to everyone, understanding of my schedule and knowing what I have to do. She is supportive, just like I am with her."

Now, before we dust off our decade-old Doug and Jackie Christie jokes like good little Sports Guys and Gals, it's worth noting that, on balance, this is a very reasonable thing.

Fredette got off to a slow start as a rookie season, shooting just 36.4 percent from the floor over his first 21 games in the league and posting a 1.33-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as he experienced growing pains in attempting to become more of a distributor at the pro level than he was when setting scoring records at BYU. (He didn't exactly set the world on fire from February through April, but his shooting picked up a bit to 40 percent from the floor.) At the height of those early season struggles, Kings coach Keith Smart attributed Fredette's trouble, in large part, to overthinking and pressing in an effort to be someone he thought the Kings wanted him to be rather than the player he really is, a sentiment shared by Akis Yerocostas of ace Kings blog Sactown Royalty, who'd like to see Fredette returned to his element and freed up to just fire more often.

If you're the kind of person who tends to internalize struggles, letting them get inside your head and obsessing over them in the hope that you can think your way out of them, then having an on-your-side safety valve around to be able to alleviate some of that mental stress — someone who's there for you, rather than your employer — is a pretty huge deal. Add to that the general garden-variety stuff with which rookies have to deal — acclimating to the pro schedule of travel, workouts, shootarounds, media availabilities (not like Jimmer was unfamiliar with that, given his college stardom, but still) and more — and the accelerated curve of having to do it all during a lockout-shortened season in which teams got virtually zero practice time and rookies bore the full brunt of lottery expectations despite not having a full preseason or training camp of preparation ... I mean, that can make for a pretty stressful situation, and I'd suspect a pretty lonely one at times, too.

Some athletes unburden at the bar, some talk to sports psychologists and some, if you can believe it, lean on their wives. Looking forward to the opportunity to turn toward a significant other to help handle all that sure seems pretty sensible. (It's also, by the way, exactly the sort of thing that most people who just got married tend to say, because they're still caught up in the afterglow. Well, most non-Thaddeus Young people.) If it actually helps him improve his performance on the court and look more like the sharpshooting guard folks fell in love with in the NCAA tournament than the tentative rook we saw last year, then we could see a marked increase in marriage license applications in the greater Sacramento area come wintertime.

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