Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Great White Hope?

BYU's Jimmer Fredette dropped 52 vs. New Mexico on Friday, single handedly outscoring 6 entire NCAA teams that were in action last night. Is this type of scoring explosion a sign of future NBA greatness or will the Mormon with the funny name just be the next great white hope to fizzle in the pros?

I'll admit, I hadn't heard too much about Fredette until this season (although he already had begun setting scoring records last year) but 2011 seems to be the year of Jimmer. BYU has been tearing it up (their only 3 losses coming twice to this same New Mexico team and the third in the game after their second best player got some trim) and he seems to be the guy everyone wants to watch starting next week in the big dance. This is a little premature to ask, but will his skills translate at the next level?

I always find it annoying when commentators immediately compare every white player to a "Larry Bird" type, using words like "gym rat" or say things like "what he lacks in athletic ability he makes up for in basketball smarts". These are all just code words for the same things that Jimmy the Greek got crucified for saying (and let's face it, Wally Szczerbiak plays nothing like Bird). At the same time, there have been a few big time white scorers in the college game in recent years who haven't been able to make the same impact in the NBA. Most prominently, Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick. Both unbelievably dominant scorers in college, neither has been able to recapture that magic as a professional, Redick a solid (but nothing special) role player with Orlando and Morrison a complete bust.

Just for kicks, let's get our Jay Bilas on, and do some white boy comparisons.

All three hovered around 40% three point shooters for their college teams, and while both Redick and Morrison have become primarily jump shooters in the pros, (albeit a small sample size for Adam) Jimmer has shown an ability to take it strong to the hoop and score on some nice inside moves to go along with his above average jump shot. While free throw attempts are almost even between the three when looking at their final seasons as student-athletes, Fredette seems to be a little more of a slasher than the other two. However, this will most definitely all change at the next level. 6'2" guards have a tough time imposing their will as easily as they did in college, and I suspect this will be no different for Fredette. (Rebounding and assist numbers were comparable as well, Jimmer racking up a few more assists per game than the other two).

All three accounted for about the same percentage of their teams' offenses (each attempting over 600 field goal attempts their final season). Most likely, Jimmer will be a later draft pick than the others meaning he will have to take on a lesser role, something that will no doubt take some getting used to by the BYU star. The main difference between the three being the level of competition faced.

There's no denying it, the Mountain West and the West Coast conferences are not the ACC, and none of those conferences can accurately prepare you for the speed and strength of NBA competition regardless of the skin color of the opponent. I'll reserve judgment on Fredette as the next great white hope (I couldn't have been more off base on Kevin Love's pro prospects). I'm not sure if he'll flame out like Morrison or find his role like Redick, but the NBA is a whole different ball game.

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