Tuesday night, Jimmer Fredette had 32 points, going 10-16 from the field and 5-6 from three.
And then they played the second half.
By the time the final buzzer sounded in BYU’s 104-79 win over heated rival Utah, Fredette had scored 47 points, hit six three pointers, handed out six assists, and surpassed the 2,000 point plateau for his career.
Not a bad night, right?
He also managed to pass Kemba Walker as the nation’s leading scorer. Andy Katz made this point on twitter, but those two are setting themselves up to have quite a showdown for national player of the year, reminiscent of the battle that JJ Redick and Adam Morrison had in the 2005-2006 season. Walker saw Fredette’s 39 in BYU’s win over UNLV, and raised him a game-winner in overtime to beat Texas on the road. Fredette re-raised with a 47 point outburst on a rival’s home court just three days later.
(The most awesome part of these two trading blog-worthy performances is that their names are Kemba and Jimmer. It feels like I’m writing about characters from Star Wars, not the country’s best basketball players. For the rest of this post, I refuse to call either by their last name.)
As of now, picking the player of the year would be a toss-up. Jimmer’s played better of late, but Kemba was so dominant early in the season and reignited his player of the year talk with that shot against Texas.
But where Jimmer has surpassed Kemba is as the nation’s darling.
Generally speaking, when you are watching a basketball game and a player does something incredible, its due to god-given athletic talent. Whether its Kemba sprinting past three defenders for a layup or Jared Cunningham coming out of nowhere for a put back dunk or Kyle Kuric skying to make a play in transition, most of the get-you-out-of-your-seat moments are a result of acrobatics as much as skill.
When Fredette makes you jump up, its because he’s shooting from 30 feet with a hand in his face. Its because he’s driving baseline, getting stuck under the basket, and throwing a bounce pass across his body to a player standing at the top of the key. Its because he’s dribbling at full speed to his right only to stop on a dime, elevate, and drill a 25-foot leaner. Its because he’s making layups at angles that Sir Isaac Newton thinks are impossible. Its because he’s doing it as a stocky, baby-faced kid with an awkward gait and weird form on his jump shot.
The biggest hurdle in Fredette’s bid to become national player of the year isn’t his ability or the numbers he will put up.
Its that no one is going to see him do it. BYU is part of the Mountain West, which means that the majority of their games are going to be played on that conference’s channel — The Mountain. Luckily for folks in the Mountain region and anyone luckily enough to be able to afford (or even get) the sports package on DirecTV, they’ll be able to see every game. For the rest of us — quick show of hands for who actually saw both BYU-UNLV and BYU-Utah — we have to wait for the occasional BYU game that will end up on Versus or on CBS College Sports, neither or which are channels that come on basic cable packages.
ESPN, however, is.
And Kemba plays in the Big East for one of the Big East’s most recognizable programs. He’ll be on ESPN plenty this year. If he continues to play like he did in Maui or at Pitt and he continues to have heroic performances like he did at Texas (all three of those games were on ESPN, by the way), people across the country are going to see it.
That said, if Fredette continues to have 39 and 47 points performances, it may not matter if anyone sees the game or not. His performance — not an overtime game between two top 25 teams, not an upset of the No. 16 team in the country, not some breaking news in the Carmelo Anthony soap opera — was the lead highlight on Sportscenter and he was interviewed over the phone by Scott van Pelt.
Your move, Kemba.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.