A year ago, this was his week. He scored 32 points one night, 34 points two nights later. He busted NCAA Tournament brackets, electrified crowds with his brazen shotmaking and court presence, and thrust BYU onto the national scene.
So what happened to The Jimmer, anyway?
Three months into his first NBA season eight months after being drafted ahead of Klay Thompson, Alec Burks and Kawhi Leonard, among others Jimmer Fredette is struggling to establish a role, earn consistent minutes, exploit his combination of skills and keep his shoulders squared and attitude straight.
"I know exactly what he's going through," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "I went from hitting the winning shot on a championship team (Indiana in 1987) and it's hard. You want so much more. But he's learning, he's improving. He's like most rookies in this league who just need time to develop."
Playing time is part of the issue. But so is Isaiah Thomas.
The 5-foot-9 point guard from Washington came out of nowhere and leaped ahead of Fredette and into the starting lineup, accelerating Smart's plan to move Tyreke Evans off the ball and creating gridlock in the backcourt. Thomas, the final pick in last summer's draft, simply refused to acknowledge his size as an impediment or the more celebrated Fredette as the superior prospect. Thomas just went out and attacked the job, earning minutes with his edgy confidence, quickness and athleticism, along with a defensive tenacity that is increasingly contagious.
The Jimmer? Check back in a month. This isn't over.
This is the NBA, the global game of unpredictable twists and turns, along with the accompanying high drama. In February, Fredette's older brother, T.J., tweeted unflattering comments about the Kings' head coach, causing a mini-furor within social networking circles and placing Jimmer in an awkward situation within his own locker room. Four weeks later, it's as if the incident never happened.
"Families," said Smart, smiling, and with a dismissive shrug.
The coaches and players seem genuinely appreciative of Fredette's easy nature and his attempts from the beginning to place a chill on his ridiculously high profile. Nonetheless, with his minutes and production sporadic, the former Cougars standout is an increasingly subdued presence these days in the locker room. (Entering Saturday's game against Golden State, he was averaging 18.7 minutes, with three DNPs, and shooting 38 percent).
"It's been a little difficult," Fredette said, denying that his confidence is shaken. "I'm just trying to work hard, to learn as much as I can."
The questions and predraft concerns are revisited with every missed shot and every mistake. Can he get his shot against longer, more athletic defenders? Can he defend quicker opponents? Did the Kings draft wisely?
The decision to take a 6-2 guard instead of one of the available shooting guards-small forwards Thompson, Burks and Leonard are all contributing to their teams remains open to debate. Geoff Petrie and his staff approached the draft intending to move Evans to small forward, and in a draft-night trade involving three teams, they acquired Fredette and John Salmons from Milwaukee and sent point guard Beno Udrih to the Bucks. The Kings needed shooting and playmaking. They wanted maturity. After intense internal discussions, they went with Fredette, the polished, charismatic senior from Glens Falls, N.Y.
Privately and publicly, Kings officials continue to laud Fredette's court vision and playmaking skills, and Smart is very specific about his future with the club.
"Jimmer is a point guard," Smart said. "He sees things, he sees the floor, and we need that. We're asking him to be more aggressive, and when he has open shots, to take the open shots. But he will help us there is no doubt in my mind."
While the Kings were hoping for a smoother transition, that's never been a part of the Fredette bio.
"He has to start over again, and he's been doing that his whole life," Fredette's father, Al Fredette, said. "At every level, there were doubts. High school. College. Now the NBA. He's been through this before, and he understands that hard work is a good thing. He will adjust."
Defensively, the Kings are urging Fredette to use his adequate size and considerable strength he is a muscular 195 pounds to provide more on-ball resistance. Offensively, his ballhandling is a little loose, particularly the left hand, and his high dribble invites strips and deflections.
"But the thing about Jimmer," said assistant coach Bobby Jackson, "is that he isn't doing those things as often as he did. I see it every day. Sometimes, it's just a matter of confidence, of getting out there and doing it. In this league, that only comes with experience."