DENVER, COLORADO--When I got my ticket punched (scanned) at the Pepsi Center for the NCAA tournament, the main attraction herein was Jimmer Fredette, the scoring machine from BYU. Sure, we were hoping for an upset or two--we double-dipped thanks to Morehead State and Richmond--but Jimmer was the thing.
It's not everyday you get to see probably the best player in college basketball, right?
How good is Jimmer? I'm the wrong guy to ask, because I was witness to a performance so narcissistic and cynical that it made me want to turn in my hoops junkie badge. Keep in mind that all the rage that follows came while watching a 32-points, 7-assist performance. How could someone put up those kind of numbers and still stink up the joint? Read on, podner.
Let's start out by acknowledging that Jimmer is incredible with the ball in his hands--a little guy with 30 feet of range on his jumper and almost superhuman strength when he drives to the basket. Jimmer explodes--and then explodes again whenever he needs to as a master of angles and half-inches.
As an offensive player he is truly amazing, and no--I'm not going to build my Jimmer argument around his atrocious defense. To call Jimmer a matador would be an insult to bullfighters everywhere, but most of the great offensive players are a mere shadow of their scoring selves on defense. (Michael Jordan, of course, being the exception.) Jimmer Fredette didn't play a lick of defense but that was as expected.
What really shocked me was Jimmer's non-stop bitching and moaning to the referees EVERY TIME he didn't get a call. It went on throughout the first half--and guess what?--by the second half Jimmer was suddenly getting ALL the calls. His shock at not being treated like a superstar was reinforced by the BYU faithful in our section who were appalled at this atypical Jimmer treatment, as if the refs didn't get the memo.
Now Jimmer is not the first star to complain to the referees--they all do--so this alone would not bring my condemnation. It was actually the way he played at the Pepsi Center that left me fuming. A typical Jimmer moment was bringing the ball upcourt, going left into a triple-team, they gyrating and gesticulating in the air before giving up the ball to a teammate at the last instant. Jimmer can actually be a brilliant passer, but his unwillingness to give up the ball was pathological. He forced up shot after shot, hoping the refs would bail him out.
Despite the aforementioned stats, Jimmer Fredette had but 5 points in the second half when it mattered most, and most of his numbers that day come on the foul line during garbage time.
I happened to catch his comments in the postgame news conference, when Jimmer insisted: "I was just trying to get my teammates involved." In 50 years of ball-watching, I have never seen a player (a) be more selfish; and (b) do less to get his teammates involved. Of course the media gobbled it up like free-range turkeys.
The great internal debate in every game of basketball is the team versus the individual. In the end, it's the team that always wins out. Jimmer Fredette and BYU can't lose soon enough for me.