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Ainge or Fredette? Tough to compare the 2 stars

It is inevitable at this stage of Jimmer Fredette's career that some make comparisons to the Great One who preceded him, the retired-jersey BYU star Danny Ainge.

Today is Fredette's final game of the season in the Marriott Center, where the Cougars host New Mexico in a colossal showdown.

Comparing Fredette to Ainge? First of all, it's tough to do, it's apples and oranges. These are two different kinds of players from contrasting eras where the shot clock and three-point line worked for one but never did for the other.

It's Charlie Daniels and Elton John. A fiddle and piano.

Ainge was a shooting guard; Fredette is a prototype point guard.

Ainge is hands down the better athlete. He was more physical, faster and a better jumper; taller by two inches, he had a longer reach. Ainge may be the only high school athlete to ever receive All-America honors in three sports (football, basketball and baseball.) He was a Parade All-American in basketball as a junior and has always been close to a scratch golfer.

Here's the quick review: Ainge was a drafted baseball player who played in the Majors. As an NBA player, he had a role with the Celtics in the heyday of Boston and Larry Bird. He was also the College Player of the Year (John Wooden Award).

Fredette, while yet to take BYU to an Elite Eight like Ainge did, is a major cornerstone in the winningest seasons in BYU history.

Ainge was a better defender but Fredette is a more creative dribbler with greater control in creating space and getting his shot off the dribble. Both are very good mid-range shooters who draw fouls. On the drive, Ainge didn't dally but dived at the hoop. Fredette is more imaginative with the ball in traffic.

Ainge's coach, Frank Arnold, told me Friday that Ainge (and Fredette) have mastered the lost art of the mid-range shot where they can draw fouls and live at the line.

"Danny could drive full speed and stop on a dime, pull up and shoot and because of that he'd get fouled a lot. I remember against UCLA, he made more free throws than the entire UCLA team combined," said Arnold.

Ainge and Fredette, Arnold believes, are book smart and court smart.

"I've always thought there was a correlation between the two," Arnold said.

Arnold said when Ainge coached the Phoenix Suns, he worked with a guy who tested brain types and learned there are six types of ways the brain is wired and processes information. One of these types is able to produce very quick hand-eye coordination which results in steals, getting off quick shots and enabling a basketball player to read a defender, set him up and react.

"Danny told me 85 percent of NBA players have that certain brain type," Arnold said.

As he witnessed this type of ability in Ainge, Arnold also sees it in Fredette.

"I watched that Arizona game (49 points). He was unbelievable," said Arnold. "He's a special player and he can set up a defender just like Danny did."

Both have great range — the kind defenses have to respect, which opens up dribble-drive options.

"Danny was never one to shoot excessively from outside," said Arnold. But there was no incentive. "Could you imagine if he had four years with the 3-point line?"

Both are superior finishers. Both are outstanding form shooters from the line. Ainge was a superior defender.

In a high school playoff game at McArthur Court at the University of Oregon, Ainge made a length-of-the-court buzzer-beater and has posted plenty of "range" evidence at multiple levels. Fredette's shooting touch is as good if not more fundamentally sound as that of Ainge, and he has Ainge-type range from beyond 22 feet.

Fredette's wide shoulders give him great strength to score with contact. He has large, wide feet, a foundation that gives him tremendous balance and superior ability to stop and start while keeping his position against defensive pressure.

Both are tremendous competitors. Ainge refused to give up on plays, and his patented palms-up pleading to officials opened him up to criticism by opposing fans wherever he played at every level. Fredette plays quietly, almost silently. While emotional, his face hides his temperament and he's the antithesis of melodrama.

I remember BYU losing at Wake Forest two years ago when Fredette was a freshman playing alongside Lee Cummard and Trent Plaisted. While his seniors looked a little intimidated in ACC territory, Fredette was the only Cougar who immediately sensed and reacted to the competitive scene and led BYU in scoring.

Since the first day Ainge practiced at BYU, he was the team's leader and go-to guy; Fredette didn't start as a freshman.

Not much fazes Fredette, neither place nor opponent, a trait shared with Ainge. Both operate against defenses designed to stop them specifically, although Ainge had a better supporting cast with NBA-bound Fred Roberts and Greg Kite and the likes of Steve Trumbo and Devin Durrant, one of the top six scorers in WAC history.

Arnold said he's not afraid to admit it: Having Ainge was like having a coach on the court.

"He and Steve Trumbo were coaches. They understood the game and got others in place," Arnold said. "Ainge had a mind for the game and understood it."

Fredette has an uncanny ability to see nine other pawns on the court and set his game accordingly with quick decisions.

Both are explosive. As a freshman, Ainge had his Oral Roberts (40) and this year Fredette had his Arizona (49 points). Ainge's game-winning dash against Notre Dame is among the top college plays of all-time. Fredette's take-over of the last two road games at San Diego State are among the best pressure performances ever by a Cougar.

Ainge set the WAC's all-time scoring record (2,467 points), which stood from 1981 until Utah's Keith Van Horn (2,542) busted it 16 years later in 1997.

With both these guys, it's to the point in their college careers that when they fail to score more than 20, folks see it as an off game. When Fredette missed five free throws last Wednesday against SDSU, the odds of him going 6-for-11 at the free throw line were 407 to 1.

In the "expectation" department, one could make the case Fredette has become equal to Ainge.

Like Ainge, people expect Fredette to deliver big shots and score gobs of points every time they step on the college court.

Every outing, with these two, is a concert.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com