DENVER (AP)—He can shoot from anywhere, score from anywhere and he has the numbers to prove it—not just in the scoring column, but in the win column, too.
At Brigham Young, they call this one-of-a-kind player “The Jimmer.”
At Gonzaga a few years ago, his name was Adam Morrison.
So, pardon the Zags as they head into Saturday’s Southeast region game against BYU if they’re more inclined to smile knowingly than bow down in reverence every time they hear mention of the nation’s leading scorer, Jimmer Fredette.
Thing is, they’ve been there, done that. Seen it done as well as The Jimmer does it—or in some cases, maybe even better.
“He’s a great player,” Gonzaga center Robert Sacre said. “But we also had Adam Morrison with us before. We’ve seen great players.”
In 2006, Morrison made a school-record 306 shots and scored a school-record 926 points while leading the Zags to the round of 16.
This year, Fredette has scored 1,002 points and needs a win over 11th-seeded Gonzaga to take the third-seeded Cougars to the same place.
With his shaggy hair, his ’70s mustache and his heart on his sleeve, Morrison became a sensation on and off the basketball court—loved by his own fans, ridiculed by others but always able to produce results. Gonzaga won 83 games in his three seasons there and made it to the regional semifinals his last year, during which he averaged a nation-high 28.1 points a game.
Fredette, who leads the country this year at 28.6 points, has become a household name, too—a living highlight reel for the sports shows and a walking invitation to any ticket-holder with some posterboard and a Sharpie to let the creativity flow. People get “Jimmerized,” fans take trips to “Jimmerland,” etc. In Fredette’s three seasons as a starter, BYU has won 86 games.
Cougars coach Dave Rose said watching Fredette’s highlights was much different than watching him for an entire game.
“I think a lot of people think he plays to score,” Rose said, “but he plays to win.”
This was the kind of thing they said about Morrison, who stands with guard John Stockton as the greatest players to play at the school based in Spokane, Wash. When Stockton was there in the mid-1980s, Gonzaga was more of local phenomenon. Morrison’s arrival came with the Bulldogs firmly on the NCAA map, in the middle of a string of consecutive trips to the tournament that reached 13 this year.
There are differences, too.
Morrison was a 6-foot-8 forward and needed an offense to be built around him.
Fredette is a point guard who can shoot whenever he wants.
Morrison was a little rough around the edges, more inclined to say what was on his mind than go the politically correct route.
Fredette—he’s media savvy and claims to be soaking in all the love, and the hate, with equal joy.
Coach Mark Few of Gonzaga (25-9) struck up a friendship with Rose last offseason and gave the BYU coach a few tips on how to deal with a star who dominates a program.
“Well, Dave’s got it made dealing with Jimmer as opposed to dealing with Adam,” Few joked. “Jimmer is a nice, smooth paved road. As opposed to Adam, he’s like something you travel in the Baja 500 or whatever that race was called.”
All kidding aside, Few said: “They’re both, I think, once-in-a-lifetime players. Their drive, their ability to score, how clutch they are. Jimmer reminds me so much of Adam. He hits closely guarded shots. You don’t see that many guys who can consistently make closely guarded shots like that.”
The task of containing Fredette will be a group effort when the teams play Saturday with the winner heading to New Orleans for the regional next week.
Living out West, where news about BYU (31-4) comes fairly steadily, the Zags hear it all about The Jimmer. The hype has been ramped up considerably in the past week, with Fredette scoring 52 in the Mountain West Conference tournament, then opening his stay in Denver with a 32-point game in a win over Wofford.
“The reason I smile every time I hear his name is because, like, everywhere I go, it’s just about Jimmer Fredette, Jimmer Fredette,” Gonzaga guard Marquise Carter said. “You can’t doubt his skills. He’s a really good player. He can put up a lot of points on any given night. So going into tomorrow’s game, we know he’s probably going to get whatever he’s going to get.”