PROVO — When Jimmer Fredette signed to play basketball for BYU he envisioned being a contributor as a freshman, playing a bigger role as a sophomore and then being NBA-ready following his junior year.
He's accomplished all three of those goals, but feels like he'll just be a lot more NBA-ready a year from now. That's why he's returning to the Cougars to play his senior season.
"It was a little too uncertain," Fredette said of only wanting to stay in the NBA Draft if he was going to be a first-round pick. "I felt like if I was going to be a second-round pick and having to fight for a spot on a team that it would be better for me to come back and have a great senior year and have a great time here at BYU, and hopefully improve my stock, and next year try to be in that first-round category."
From what he heard from NBA scouts, coaches and general managers last week after workouts with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks, he is NBA-ready now.
However, none would guarantee using a first-round pick on him in June's draft.
"They all said that they really, really liked me," Fredette said. "They would say stuff like that ... they said I could be a very good pro, and that's what they thought would happen. So that was encouraging to hear and get that kind of feedback from all of these people ... to hear that for all of the things that I've actually worked for and growing up and wanting to be in that position, and then being able to hear someone say that you actually are in that position right now is a cool thing to hear. Hopefully, I'll continue to get better and I'll continue to work hard so they say even better things before the draft next year."
Deciding, last Saturday, to withdraw from the draft was actually a more difficult decision for Fredette than most originally expected. It became that way because of the impressions he made in his two-hour workouts and skills testing with the four teams. He proved to be more athletic and have better defensive skills than the NBA executives believed going in.
"I tested out really well in a lot of the areas and they were probably a little surprised with that, which was good. That's what I thought I could do, go in and surprise them in some of those areas ... I think they all thought I was better than they thought, and that's kind of why I had to think about it — whether to stay in or not — because I was getting some great feedback on different things. Some people would say I'd go anywhere from 20th to 40th, right around that range, so that was the feedback I was getting from the camps and all the four teams."
In playing one more season at BYU, Fredette hopes to improve his conditioning and defensive skills — which would remove questions about his ability to defend NBA-caliber guards and the criticism that he tends to take defensive possessions off. Also, playing a full season without battling the effects of mononucleosis will give scouts are more accurate view of Fredette's true potential.
"I'm excited to go through a season, hopefully, injury free and sick free," he said. "That would be good for me. I felt like I was up and down during (last) season, and wasn't able to have all my strength back for all the games. So I feel like next year I can be more consistent in my play."