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Jimmer Fredette should be named the national Player of the Year in college basketball. He should win the Naismith and the Wooden awards. And it's not even close.
That's not an opinion based on some bit of misplaced local media fandom or hype or regional bias or familiarity. There's none of that in play here. It's based on the complete impact Fredette has had on his team and the outcomes of games.
By that measure, if voters are going to single out and honor an individual in a team game, Fredette is a tomahawk slam-dunk. Ironic for a guard who, despite his defensive protestations to the contrary, can barely send it.
That's one of his few limitations.
Everyone knows Fredette can score in bunches, and usually does. His ability to shoot from long distance has become his signature this season, the single skill that has captured the imaginations of basketball observers around the country. If any player, college or pro, hits a deep 3, it's now "Jimmer range." His slightly compromised shooting percentage 46 percent is mitigated, in part, by the degree of difficulty factored into so many of his attempts and, in part, because he absolutely carries the offensive load for BYU.
How many collegiate players face, in every game, a defense tailored specifically to slow them down?
Fredette has seen every conceivable version, each of which features double- and triple-teams, and many of which include physical punishment as part of the means to an end. The Cougars depend on him to read and recognize what the defense is doing on almost every possession, and then either to set up his teammates or set up himself.
Either way, the physical and mental burden/opportunity is always there, every game, every possession, nearly every second, at least at the offensive end.
For a number of years, before Fredette arrived at BYU and emerged as the player he is, the Cougars often had quality teams with complementary players, but those teams lacked a real star to carry them through tough stretches in clutch situations. That's why BYU lost in the first round of so many NCAA Tournaments, running into opponents that overwhelmed it athletically. Back-to-back first-round losses to Texas A&M, when Fredette was a freshman and sophomore, are illustrative of the point.
At those times, he was not yet prepared for or suited to the task, although as a sophomore he demonstrated a fearlessness in defeat that some of the lead upperclassmen lacked.
By his junior year, Fredette got a wave of the green flag by BYU coach Dave Rose, giving him license to take matters into his own hands on the court, deciding when to share the ball and when to shoot it.
Still, the Naismith and Wooden awards are not or should not be based on lifetime achievement, rather recognition for what has been accomplished in 2010-11, alone.
Look at the names and numbers of the four Naismith finalists.
Nolan Smith of Duke averages 21 points, 5.2 assists, and shoots 46 percent for a Blue Devil team that is in the Sweet 16. He scored more than 30 points three times.
Kemba Walker of UConn scores 23.6 points, with 4.5 assists, and he shoots 43 percent for the Huskies, who are in the Sweet 16. He put up more than 30 points eight times, and more than 40 once.
Jared Sulliger of Ohio State averages 17.1 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 54 percent, leading the Buckeyes not only into the Sweet 16, but also to the position as the tournament's No. 1 seed. He scored more than 30 points once. Fredette has gone for 28.8 points a game this season, averaged 4.3 assists, and shot the aforementioned 46 percent, leading BYU into its first Sweet 16 appearance in 30 years. He totaled more than 30 points 14 times, got more than 40 four times, and more than 50 once.
All four are fabulous players, and some might have brighter projections than Fredette as far as NBA potential. But that's not what defines or designates the Player of the Year in college basketball. Not what should define or designate the ultimate winner.
Jimmermania isn't a reason to vote for Fredette or to either automatically gift him the trophy or withhold it from him, but what caused all the Jimmer rage should.
Impact on his team, on his team's success, on individual games, on the college game itself. Some say Fredette doesn't play defense and is a shameless gunner. But take the finalists off their teams and compare what's left. Fredette has accomplished the most with the players around him.
In gyms across the country, high school coaches are probably swearing at Fredette for inspiring schoolboys to shoot from 22 feet, 23 feet, 25 feet, 30 feet, 40 feet. When he took a pass deep on the perimeter in the Gonzaga game, lifting off on the right side from an unaligned position, twisting his body in midair as he flawlessly squared up, lofting a soft, long spinner up, up, up and down, down, down straight through the net, spectators had to wonder how many college kids could dial in a sweet number like that, and hit it again and again, because he had to for his team to win.
Nobody's had a season this year like Fredette.
For once, the hype is right.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 104.7 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.