The Jimmer Fredette circus arrived Wednesday in Salt Lake City. The show was packed; the scene was a riot. And Fredette again stole the spotlight.
Building off strong performances during four previous NBA Draft workouts, the former Brigham Young guard accomplished exactly what he set out to do weeks ago when initial plans took shape for a highly hyped session with the Jazz. Fredette got his long-desired matchup against ex-Connecticut star Kemba Walker, holding his own against a player many consider to be a lock for a top-10 pick in the June 23 draft. Fredette also drilled shots he was expected to sink, while drawing praise for his sharp passing and improved defense. In turn, the undersized combo guard who entered the five-week buildup toward selection day facing numerous questions and serious doubts ended Wednesday's session by making more believers.
"I thought it was one of my better workouts. I really did. I thought I played very well," said Fredette, who competed against Walker, Malcolm Lee (UCLA), Josh Harrellson (Kentucky), Senario Hillman (Alabama) and Paul Carter (Illinois-Chicago) for more than an hour at the Jazz practice facility.
Shooting drills and three three-on-three sessions were the focus of the workout, which was closed to the media. BYU men's basketball coach Dave Rose was in attendance, though, as was a playofflike media contingent and a large number of Jazz sponsors who watched behind a second-floor glass window as Fredette faced Walker.
Despite the intense local connection and Fredette's belief that draft workouts are more pressure-filled than NCAA playoff games, the 22-year-old with a cultlike following and his own YouTube channel didn't flinch. Fredette blocked out the media circus, slept easy Tuesday night, then awoke telling himself to just "be Jimmer."
"It's not a big deal to me. … It actually gets you a little more pumped up to go into the workout, and you're a little more energized when people are watching, just because your adrenaline kicks in and you want to go and play as well as you can," said Fredette, who again focused on proving that he can play defense and run the point-guard position at the NBA level.
All five other players involved in the workout said Fredette did just that. And while Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor offered his standard string of no comments, Utah coach Tyrone Corbin was impressed with the guard's speed and fiery spirit.
"This cat really competes, and he hates to lose," Corbin said. "He's a good kid. He really likes to play, and that shows in everything that he does on the floor along with his scoring ability. Everyone knows him for putting up numbers on the board. But I think he's a more complete player than a lot of people give him credit for."
Corbin acknowledged that he saw minor holes in Fredette's game and areas for improvement. But his overall read was an impressive one.
"He's better than I thought he was in some situations," Corbin said.
Walker was most taken with Fredette's passing. The ball movement was highlighted by a difficult bounce pass through traffic, completing an NBA-caliber set that started with a side-screen roll.
"Jimmer's a great player," Walker said. "Of course, there's been a lot of criticism towards him because he scored a lot. But I actually think he can play the point-guard position on the next level. Today, he definitely showed that. Him scoring is just a plus."
As for Walker, Wednesday's workout is expected to be his final one before the draft. Initially lumped in with prospects such as former Kentucky guard Brandon Knight and Turkish center Enes Kanter for the Jazz's third pick, Walker is uncertain which team he will join. But he feels certain that he's done everything within his power to be drafted as high as possible.
"We're all here for jobs," Walker said.
Fredette's peak position is likely Sacramento's seventh pick. Phoenix (13) could also land the ex-Cougar, and there is growing sentiment that the Jazz could call out Fredette's name next Thursday if the organization holds on to both its picks and takes a big man such as Kanter at No. 3. Fredette has long been scouted by the Jazz, and key personnel were already high on him before his draft stock started rising.
Whether Fredette eventually fulfills the local dream and ends up wearing a Jazz uniform is a week away from being determined. But he definitely didn't hurt his chances Wednesday, and he only aided his desire of soon becoming a top-15 pick.
"These workouts show that I'm a good basketball player," Fredette said. "People see ESPN they see the long shots and they see me scoring the basketball. But they don't show often too many assists, and I've been doing that my whole career. … I'm looking forward to showing everybody that I'm a complete player and that I can come in and really help a team out right away."
Briefly • Knight will hold a solo workout Thursday with the Jazz. Utah wanted other players to participate, but the individual session won't deter Utah from taking Knight if the organization determines he is the best fit for the No. 3 pick. The Jazz are expected to hold additional workouts Sunday and Monday.
P June 23, 5 p.m.
TV • ESPN
11. Golden State