PROVO — Jimmer Fredette remembers it as a “life-changing” experience.
Four years ago, the former BYU star captured the nation’s attention created by his uncanny ability to score from anywhere on the court. He inspired rap songs. He inspired clever ways to turn his name into a verb, such as “You got Jimmered!” or an adjective, as in “Jimmer Range.”
The unassuming kid from upstate New York became a national sensation, and ended up becoming the consensus national player of the year as he led the Cougars to a top-10 ranking and their first Sweet 16 appearance in 30 years.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s been four years already,” Fredette told the Deseret News recently. “I feel like I was just there yesterday. I loved my time at BYU. It was an unbelievable experience with the fans, and the people that I have met I have lifelong relationships still. I love to go back in the summertime and see everybody. I like to play with the guys, walk around campus, and remember what it was like. I had an amazing experience at BYU.”
What was known as “Jimmermania” started sweeping the country in January 2011. Highlight shows, particularly on ESPN, regularly played Fredette’s eye-popping highlights on a regular basis.
Many say "Jimmermania" began in earnest after Fredette scored 39 points, and hit seven 3-pointers, as the Cougars defeated UNLV in Las Vegas for the first time in eight tries under coach Dave Rose. It was the conference opener, and to make things even more dramatic, Rebel guard Tre’Von Willis had been quoted earlier in the week saying that Fredette was “supposedly” the conference’s best player.
Then a little more than one week later, Fredette torched arch-rival Utah for 47 points and six 3-pointers. He poured in 32 points in the first half alone, capped by a memorable 40-footer at the first-half buzzer.
And everyone at that point was talking about Jimmer.
“It was different. It was life-changing. All the sudden, you couldn’t go anywhere without people wanting to take pictures with you or talk to you or get an autograph from you,” Fredette said. “That was much different from what I grew up with. It suddenly hit overnight. I appreciated all the support and love that I had from not only BYU fans and people from Utah, but all over the country. It was really a unique situation. It’s something that I cherish and I’ll never forget. It was awesome.”
Everytime folks thought the hype couldn’t get any bigger, Fredette would top himself.
There was the 43-point outburst against another top-10 team, San Diego State at home. Afterward, NBA star Kevin Durant posted on his Twitter account: “Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the world!”
Then, in late February, the No. 7-ranked Cougars knocked off the No. 6 Aztecs again, on the road, as Fredette scored 25 points and dished out a career-high nine assists to teammates who drilled huge shots.
In the Mountain West Conference tournament semifinals against New Mexico, Fredette scored a career-high, and a single-game school-record, 52 points, and also set the all-time scoring record. He finished his Cougar career with 2,599 points.
Current BYU guard Tyler Haws needs to score 35 points to break Fredette’s scoring record at BYU. The Cougars host San Diego Saturday (8 p.m. MST, ESPNU).
Fredette, who was selected in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft at No. 10 overall, said he is supportive of Haws breaking his record, and is happy for his former BYU teammate's success.
In his fourth season in the NBA, Fredette is averaging 10.9 minutes and four points per game in his first year with the New Orleans Pelicans.
“It’s been going well. I’m continuing to plug along,” Fredette said. “I keep working hard day in and day out. When I get a chance to play, I try to produce the best I can. Hopefully, we can win games and be in the (playoff) hunt.”
These days Fredette plays his home games on the same court in New Orleans where he ended his college career. The Cougars fell to Florida in a Sweet 16 NCAA tournament showdown in the Crescent City.
The memories of that season are still fresh.
“It was a great time in my life. I remember walking off the floor for the last time and giving it my all and trying to win that game,” he said. “It didn’t happen. I remember this arena and the good times that we had. Walking off for the last time was tough.”
The emergence of "Jimmermania" during the winter of 2011 was life-changing for Fredette, and unforgettable for BYU fans.