Jimmer Fredette

Throwback Thursday: Remember how good college Jimmer was? (VIDEO)

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Jimmer Fredette may be getting his last chance to make a name for himself in the NBA, as he signed with the Spurs after failing to find a solid role in any of his previous three stops, including last season with the New Orleans Pelicans.

The one thing that we know Jimmer can do at an NBA level is shoot the ball, and if they’re looking for a mini-microwave, floor-spacing guard that can score in bunches, isn’t that really all Jimmer does? That’s not a bad risk to take considering the Spurs are essentially getting him for peanuts; as Adrian Wojnarowski put it, a “modest financial guarantee”.

I’d hesitate to call Jimmer a flop in the NBA, but he certainly has failed to live up to the hype that he had coming out of BYU. And while the red flags he had in college — limited size, limited athleticism, relying too heavily on his right hand, a habit of settling for deep contested threes — have come to fruition at the professional level, it doesn’t change the fact that Jimmer-mania was totally and completely justified.

Because the dude might have been the most entertaining player in college basketball history, and I know what I’m saying there. Every game his senior season turned into a scramble to find an illegal stream to be able to watch this little mormon kid from upstate New York hit defenders with ankle-shattering crossovers before pulling up from 25-feet with two hands in his face.

When he got rolling, the things he could do on a basketball court were insane.

And while his NBA career hasn’t exactly panned out the way some hoped, don’t let it cloud the memories of college Jimmer.

Because he was awesome:

BYU fans print ‘Chicago to Provo’ T-shirts in anticipation of Jabari Parker visit

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BYU fans want top recruit Jabari Parker to be a Cougar. Badly.

That’s why, when BYU tips off against Cal State Northridge on Saturday night, a game Parker is expected to be in attendance for, 6,300 fans will be sporting T-shirts that read “Chicago to Provo”.

The T-shirts are a reference to Parker’s hometown and BYU’s Utah home, accompanied by an illustration of the Chicago skyline fading into the mountains.

The funding for the idea was the work of a website called CougarBoard.com and helped by the work of two BYU fans, Greg Welch and Tony Brown.

“I have a Twitter account, a few blogs like any crazy fan has these days, and the community I’m involved with thought, ‘What can we do to roll out the red carpet for him?’ ” Welch told ESPNChicago.com. ” ‘What can we do to add to the excitement when he is here?’ Our goal is for there to be electricity in the building and (Saturday) night is a special environment.”

Parker is also considering Stanford, Florida, Michigan State, and Duke. He received an equally unique welcome when he visited Duke last month, when fans spray-painted “Jabari, Welcome Home” on a bed sheet and hung it on campus.

The Cougars, though from a smaller program, are in an interesting situation for Parker, as his father explained to ESPNChicago.com.

“Remember he belongs to the Church of Latter-Day Saints,” he said. “They got one of the winningest programs in the last 4-5 years if you look at their record. They average 25 wins a year. They don’t get the recognition of others. Their conference isn’t that bad. Remember they had the player of the year in Jimmer Fredette. They have a real good program.”

Parker is expected to make his decision in the coming months.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Back from mission, Tyler Haws is the same player but a new man

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BROOKLYN – Back in October, a significant change was announced by Thomas S. Monson, the current President of the LDS Church. Instead of requiring young men to wait until they are 19 years old to be able to go on their two-year missions, the rule change now allows high school graduates to leave after their 18th birthday if they have already gotten their diploma. This change was huge news in college athletics for schools like BYU, Utah and Utah State. Now, instead of Mormon athletes having to spend their freshman season on campus before leaving for two years, these kids can serve for two years before arriving on campus and then spend four or five consecutive seasons with their team.

It’s a rule that Tyler Haws wishes he could have taken advantage of.

“I would have gone straight out, for sure,” Haws, BYU’s sophomore shooting guard, said. “I think that’s the easiest thing to do, get out and come back and have four years.”

Haws should be a senior right now. You want an idea of how long it has been since Haws last played for the Cougars? When he was a freshman, Haws teamed up with Jimmer Fredette, who had yet to become a national sensation and whose name hadn’t become verbiage meaning sinking 32-foot threes. Brandon Davies is no longer a random freshman, instead he’s 20 months removed from one of the more embarrassing and polarizing suspensions in recent memory. Brock Zylstra and Davies are the only players still on the roster from Haws’ freshman year. Perhaps most significantly, however, BYU is no longer in the same conference as Utah. The Utes moved on to the Pac-12 while the Cougars now share conference membership with the likes of Gonzaga and St. Mary’s.

Haws averaged 11.3 points and 4.2 boards as a freshman, but after one year on campus, he made the decision to serve his mission, putting a very promising basketball career on hold. Haws expected to be sent to Europe — he was born in Belgium and still has family on that side of the pond — but was instead shipped off to the Philippines.

It was a speed bump, but it was one that Haws had been looking forward to.

“It’s something I was definitely planning on my whole life, since I was a little kid,” Haws said. “It feels good to be back and playing again, but [serving my mission] was the best experience of my whole life.”

Haws will always wonder whether or not his presence on BYU’s roster in 2010-2011, the year The Jimmer led BYU to the Sweet 16, could have helped them get past Florida. That’s something that’s never going to go away. But Haws is devout. He’s loyal to his faith, and he believes that there he’s more than simply a basketball player. He realizes that there is more to life than being really good at making a ball go through a metal ring. Missing out on BYU’s dream season will sting, and that’s never going to go away, but neither will the lessons he learned and the experiences he had when he served.

“I feel like the experience that I gained on my mission can’t be gained any other way,” he said. “I feel like stepping away from the game for two years can really help you. I feel like I grew up as a person and as a leader.”

“We have a prophet in the Mormon faith, and he’s given a commandment to serve a mission. … We believe that commandment comes from God, and we feel like it’s really important. And I felt like it was something that I needed to do.”

In talking to Haws, that doesn’t feel like lip service either. He comes across as genuine, honest and open, and one can only wonder how much of that is a result of spending two years helping people in a third-world country.

Now that he’s back at BYU, Haws’ focus has returned to the hardwood, but it wasn’t an easy transition going from being a missionary to an elite level athlete. Living in Quezon City, outside of Manila, Haws’ days were strenuous, organized and long. Six days a week, he was up by 6:30 a.m., spending as many as 15 hours-a-day studying scripture and spreading the gospel of the LDS Church. He wasn’t there to train; he barely had time to check his email or do his laundry.

Playing basketball once a week, at the most, against Philippinos, who aren’t exactly known for their height, took a toll on Haws’ physical condition. He lost 10 pounds, he couldn’t run as far or as fast, he couldn’t jump as high. That silky-smooth jumper he was known for took some work before it stopped looking like a Reggie Evans free throw. “I tried to take it one step at a time when I got back,” he said. “I tried to get my strength back, my body back. I feel really comfortable right now.”

It took a lot of time and even more hard work, but Haws appears to be rounding back into game shape. In two games at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic last week, Haws averaged 22.0 points, 8.5 boards, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals. On the season, those numbers are 22.0 points, 7.0 boards and 3.8 assists while shooting 49.3% from the field and 35.7% from three.

He’s the perfect wing compliment to Davies in the paint and Matt Carlino at the point. If he can continue to play at this level, he gives BYU a chance to compete for the WCC crown and earn an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.

And rest assured, that’s something that Haws will work his tail off to achieve, because finding success on the court still matters to him.

But it’s no longer the most important part of Haws’ life.

“It’s changed my perspective on life,” he said. “I went to a third-world country. All I did is just serve and help people all day. I got to see how people lived and how the gospel of Jesus Christ can help others.”

“It changed me forever.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

BYU serves notice of its recruiting turf

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Utah isn’t often thought of as a hotbed of high school basketball talent, but anybody that has seen the Utah Reign play on the club circuit knows that there are some serious players in the region. The one catch regarding the Utah Reign is that all of the members attend the same high school, Lone Peak, and the top three members are all committed to BYU.

The Cougars have already locked up 2013 prospects Nick Emery and Eric Mika. In the backcourt, Emery has the possibility of drawing some Jimmer Fredette comparisons as his shooting range starts when he passes half court, and he is a consensus top-100 prospect. Meanwhile, Mika is lesser-known following sitting out the last high school season after a transfer, but he’s a 6-9 post that has skill and can bang inside. Meanwhile, 2014 shooting guard TJ Haws has made an early commit, and he’s a ball wizard who can score.

BYU’s in-state recruiting prowess may not stop at the three stars from Lone Peak, though, as they served up several scholarship offers this week to players that could be a part of building an extremely strong college team. The Desert News reported that BYU tendered scholarship offers to three 2014 big-men with Utah ties, as well as a 2013 center in Luke Worthington of Wisconsin.

The three 2014 post players all have the potential to be special. 6-7 Dalton Nixon and 6-9 Brekkott Chapman have impressed on the traveling circuit for Utah Pump N Run and Utah Hoops, respectively, while Arizona-native Payton Dastrup, a 6-9 center, has worked his way into the national top-50 following his tremendous play for Utah Select. If BYU can add Dastrup and one or more of the other players to Emery, Mika and Haws, they should be extremely strong years to come.

In terms of in-state recruiting, BYU is getting it done with a particularly strong recent crop of prospects. The moribund Utah program could also benefit from sharing the wealth in Utah, but beyond incoming freshman wing Jordan Loverridge, they seem to be trailing BYU and focusing elsewhere.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Jimmer gets hitched

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It’s been over a year since former BYU star Jimmer Fredette played a college game, but how could I pass this story up? He’s still a folk hero to collegiate hoopheads, and everybody likes a good wedding, am I right?

Yep, Jimmer got hitched this past week, marrying his college sweetheart Whitney Wonnacott at the Denver Latter Day Saints temple. His blushing bride is apparently a native of Littleton, Colorado, but the happy couple met while both were students at BYU. While Jimmer was battling through his first season as a Sacramento King, Wonnacott was finishing up at Brigham Young. She graduated with a degree in broadcast  journalism.

Fredette and Wonnacott met when she was a freshman and he a sophomore. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, they met on a rather rough occasion for the Cougars – the day they lost to the Texas A&M Aggies in Philadelphia in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament. She was a cheerleader, he was the team’s leading scorer in the loss (18 points – it sounds so quaint in retrospect).

I know you’re all wondering: how does Jimmer Fredette propose? Details are scant, but the Tribune is able to give us the general idea:

Fredette proposed last Aug. 26, surprising Wonnacott, who thought he would be away at a golf tournament and went to his Provo apartment to help his brother move a car.

Friday morning, Fredette acknowledged that it was the couple’s big day, posting on Twitter: “Wedding Day today! Ready for the best day of my life with @whitwonnacott!”

She worked as an intern at Salt Lake City television station KSL and told the station recently that the wedding preparations were “crazy, but a lot of fun. … I mean, it is stressful at times. There’s a lot to think about, a lot going on.”

What else is there to be said? Congratulations to the Fredettes!

Five more matchups we’d like to see happen

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ESPN has rolled out an extensive series on non-conference scheduling this week, the latest of which came courtesy of Myron Medcalf, who took a look at matchups that he would love to see.

Obviously, Medcalf started his list with Kentucky versus Indiana, ended it with Kentucky versus UCLA and had everything from Louisville-Indiana to Memphis-Arizona to Murray State-Creighton in between. I have no qualms with his list.

But I do have five dream matchups of my own:

Lehigh vs. Murray State: The Racers are coming off of a season where they won their first 23 games, suffered just a single loss prior to the NCAA tournament, and put together enough talent on Steve Prohm’s first team in Murray that they could have made a deep run into the tournament had they not run into a tough Marquette team in the second round. Lehigh managed to knock off Bucknell in the Patriot League’s title game to earn an automatic bid to the tournament, where they upset No. 2 seed Duke in the first round.

The common thread? Both teams return all-american caliber point guards whose only contact with a national audience for the majority of the season will be illegal internet streams. But a battle between CJ McCollum and Isaiah Canaan? Yeah, I’ll wanna be court side for that.

Wisconsin vs. Florida: This spring has been defined by “The Transfer Dilemma”, and it all started when Bo Ryan blocked Jarrod Uthoff from transferring to 26 different schools. While Ryan eventually relented on the restrictions, but it wasn’t before every writer in the country had penned a column ripping him and his abuse of power. One of the schools on that list? Florida. Making matters more interesting? Billy Donovan came out announced that he was in favor of allowing players to transfer anywhere. Awkward …

UNLV vs. UCLA: Chace Stanback fizzled out at UCLA, transferring to UNLV where he became a first-team all-conference performer. Stanback has graduated, but the presence of a disgruntled former Bruin is still on the Rebel roster. Potential all-american Mike Moser, who averaged 14.1 points and 10.6 boards last season and earned first-team all-MWC honors, also started his career in Westwood. UCLA has had more image issues than they’ve had success of late, but they will be a consensus top ten team this season.

And so will UNLV. Yes please.

Michigan vs. Georgetown: There is nothing amazing or unique about this matchup. One’s a massive state school in the Big Ten, the other is a much small private school in the heart of DC and Big East country. John Beilein did spend some time coaching West Virginia as the Hoyas’ Big East rival, but there is nothing particularly special about their history. What makes this matchup appealing to me is that both programs run a unique system offensively and mix up their defenses. Both teams should be pretty good, as well, which makes this game all-the-more intriguing.

San Diego State vs. BYU: Remember back in 2010, when Jimmer Fredette and Kawhi Leonard led BYU and SDSU, respectively, to top ten rankings and high tournament seeds before getting picked in the first round of the NBA Draft? I certainly do. They had some battles that season. Next year, the Aztecs should be really good as they add a number of athletic big men to join an already-talented crop of back court players. And BYU? They should be pretty good, too, as Brandon Davies and Matt Carlino return, Tyler Haws is finally back from his Mormon mission and Chris Collinsworth will (hopefully) be healthy. It may not be Jimmer vs. Kawhi, but it would be fun, no?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.