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A man for all seasons: How Jimmer Fredette found balance and fulfillment

The former BYU basketball star’s family is the center of his universe, but he still has an itch for the game

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Jimmer Fredette and his 5-year-old daughter Wesley watch the Brigham Young Cougars play the Pepperdine Waves at the Marriott Center

Jimmer Fredette and his 5-year-old daughter Wesley watch the Brigham Young Cougars play the Pepperdine Waves at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

It’s exactly what 5-year-old Wesley Fredette wanted for her birthday, to hang with Cosmo.

So, for the first time since his last game in BYU’s Marriott Center in 2011, where he earned the Naismith Trophy as the best collegiate basketball player in the country, Wesley’s father, Jimmer, flew her on a daddy-daughter date to see BYU play Pepperdine on Saturday night. He intended it to be low-key, just in and out, just he and Wesley and sometime during the night, a visit with the popular, aerobatic Cosmo.

Jimmer himself turned 33 on Friday, the day after Wesley’s birthday. About half of Jimmer’s life has been spent as a basketball icon in high school, college and professionally. His name is synonymous with long-range shooting. His persona is one of a cherub-faced, thoughtful, considerate soul whose simple love for the game transcends what we often see in a selfishness harbinger of many of the millionaires who play at the highest levels.

A year ago, playing in China with the Shanghai Sharks, Fredette spent seven months away from his wife, Whitney, and kids, Wesley and Taft. Like most athletes during COVID-19, he spent two weeks in quarantine to begin the season abroad. Then the season unfolded into a restricted bubble with hotel distancing rules and limited movement. Games were played in empty arenas and before and after, he was restricted regarding where he could go. 

Seven months is a long time.  

It was miserable. He missed his family. It was kind of like a prison sentence and he was locked away from everyone he held dear. He missed being a dad, a husband, a son and a brother, and having the freedom to act as one in person. He did get paid, however.

So, when Shanghai began planning for this past season that just ended with similar arrangements and restrictions, Fredette said no. 

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Jimmer Fredette and the Shanghai Sharks play a game in Shanghai on Jan. 19, 2018. Fredette is a former BYU Cougar who played for the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

He could not and would not do it again.

“It was not an easy time physically or mentally. I knew we were going to do it again this year. So, knowing how it was, I did not feel comfortable going over there, especially with my wife pregnant and not being able to get back quick if I needed to. This was the best thing to do and I’m super happy with the decision.  

“Obviously I know people love watching you play and I love the game, but it was the best decision for me at this point.”

For the first time in his marriage to Whitney, expecting their third child in June, he will be by her side every step of the way. He had missed being there for her two previous pregnancies. Not this time.

“It’s been great, just awesome being home with the family and doing all the things a father is supposed to do. I’ve had a wonderful time,” Fredette said from his home in Denver on Friday.

“I’ve had a really awesome time being able to be home for the holiday season and now for my kids’ birthdays and everything. I’ve had opportunities to go play in China again, but I felt like it was best for me at this point in our family to stay home and to be here with family and kind of work on some other things. And I’ve had a really, really great time doing it. It’s been a lot of fun.”

With this pregnancy, Fredette said, his wife is a little more tired and has needed his support. And he’s more than willing to oblige, making it his top priority.

Fredette said he could not leave his family for that long again and not see them. 

“My kids completely grew into different people right before I got home least year. I didn’t want to do that at this point in my life. It took an emotional toll.”

Whitney strong

Jimmer Fredette had a hero who made it possible for him to be away playing basketball in China, one who held everything together: his wife Whitney.

“She’s been incredible,” said Fredette. “I mean, she’s a very independent person. You have to have a certain mindset to be able to handle this. She’s been so supportive through the whole thing. We’ve never had an instance where we had a super big argument or fight because I had to go play basketball somewhere.”

Whitney told Jimmer their situation was what it was and how they’d make their living. She said she knew at some point it would end, but as long as he put in the effort to make sure his family was the priority — talking on FaceTime, being present and making sure he was there for the kids when he was home — she was all-in.

Fredette said he’s tried to have that mindset, too. 

“I think one of the biggest things is she is an amazing communicator and I didn’t have that when I was growing up. I was a little more shy. So she’s taught me how to become a better communicator. When you are living a long distance apart in a relationship, that’s key. She can tell me about her day all the way down to the smallest details and I feel like I’m there.”

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Jimmer Fredette and his wife, Whitney, look over the view from their 19th-floor apartment in Shanghai on Jan. 21, 2018. Fredette is a former BYU Cougar who played for the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Through the years, Fredette has worked on his communication skills and he’s tried to reciprocate what Whitney does. 

“I think that’s a huge key. She’s taught me. She is so great with the kids and great with the family. She is so supportive and I love and appreciate that because it can hurt a relationship when you are gone so long.”

Training as Jimmer

Fredette once scored 73 points against Zhejiang Guangsha in the Chinese Basketball League, and he had many of those vintage Jimmer scoring nights the last season he played. Now, in this break, he works out regularly with myriad routines during the week, including shooting and dribbling exercises, cardio and regularly shifting into what he calls game speed mode to keep his edge. He’s also added playing tennis regularly to his regimen for both agility and enjoyment.

“I’ve trained pretty much the way I always have. I stay in shape no matter what I’m doing and keep up with conditioning. It isn’t quite as intense as if I was getting ready for a season, but I could get there if I needed to. I feel good, I’m still in good shape and play a lot of basketball.”

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Jimmer Fredette kisses his wife, Whitney, after a game in Shanghai on Jan. 19, 2018. Fredette is a former BYU Cougars who played for the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The workout during a preseason summer is a little different than what he does now.

“I work on things I feel I need to do better. If you don’t, you won’t improve. I’m working on a lot of screen and roll-type things this year, a lot of floater-type workouts. For me, it’s all about getting quality reps, so I’m not in the gym for hours, it’s usually 45 minutes to an hour. When I do game speed, I do it until I feel comfortable I could get in a game and make those shots.”

Charity goes forward

Fredette is comfortable with what he’s been able to do as an athlete and man. 

He’s accumulated generational wealth through basketball. He has a successful charity called Jimmerosity, which works to prevent bullying in schools. 

He’s been frugal with his money, invested it well. It’s managed by Geoff Marsh of Octagon Financial Services, a firm whose clients include some of the top athletes in the world, such as Stephen Curry and Chris Paul.

“I talk to Geoff all the time, probably as much as anyone,” said Fredette. “He’s incredible and he’s been with me literally since Day 1. We’ve kind of driven through this together. He was on BYU’s campus talking to a business class just the other day. He knows his stuff and we have a great relationship. I’ve been saving money from the start and made sure I would be good to go when I got to this point in my career.”

When living in Shanghai, Fredette met Greg and Julie Cook at church one Sunday. Greg Cook is the founding executive of doTerra. In time, the Cooks invited Fredette to their home for dinners and to hang out with the family. They’ve become close friends.

The Cooks have embraced Fredette’s Jimmerosity Foundation and given support to his cause, specifically the Jimmerosity Choose Kindness Program.

“They just kept inviting me over to their place and treated me like family. It was incredible. They were so nice to me, they’re so kind to me. We were able to talk to them in China with my dad (Al Fredette) at a point about our foundation because they were looking to get into foundation work, eventually becoming a part of it.

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Elementary students in Corinth, New York, hold a Choose Kindness banner during an event at the school. Choose Kindness is a big theme of Jimmer’s foundation.

Jimmerosity Foundation

“(The Cooks) lived in Pleasant Grove before they moved to China and then they moved back to Pleasant Grove,” Fredette continued. “They’ve helped bring our kindness program nationwide, help us give out grants to schools, and move the program forward. It’s been an unbelievable friendship. I love the Cook family, their kids, and just everything about them. To be able to partner with them to bring something across the country has been special.”

“The Cooks got involved with The Cook Center for Human Connection and together the Choose Kindness provides curriculum, service projects, and other resources to help create a culture of kindness in schools and communities,” according to J. Blair Giles, president, and CEO of the Fredette Family Foundation.

It is designed for elementary schools and currently is in 50 schools in 10 states, including Selma, Alabama; Hinesville, Georgia; Princeton, West Virginia; Little Falls, New Jersey; Lincoln, Illinois; Corinth, New York (near Jimmer’s hometown); Flint, Michigan; Mesa, Arizona; Mariposa, California, and Utah cities West Valley, Highland, Pleasant Grove and Provo.

The Fredette engine

All of his life, Fredette has not only had an inner drive to compete and succeed, but his heart has been programmed by master parents who taught him to exude kindness, generosity and love. 

It is, in Biblical terms, “written not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:3).

It isn’t preachy, it isn’t pious ,but simple and very noticeable.

He’s always been on target this way and credits his parents, Al and Kay, for this feeling inside, his approach to life and interaction with others.

“It starts with my parents, honestly. From my upbringing, where I came from, the humble background that we had and just my family in general,” he said.

“My brother, my sister, my parents, they did a great job raising me. I was much younger than my sister and my brother. I looked up to them. They were great role models and examples to me. My dad, he helped everyone in our community. 

“You guys (reporters) have been to my community in Glens Falls. It’s small. There’s not a whole lot going on there; it’s tight-knit. He knew everyone and he was willing to help everyone. When people came and they needed help, my dad would help them. When they asked my mom (Kay) for a meal or even to stay in our home at certain times, even though we didn’t have a whole lot of room, my parents would give what they had.

“Because I grew up in that situation, it just kind of rubbed off on me. My father did a great job of instilling that these are the most important things: to be a good person, to be kind, be helpful, be charitable, give up your time to help others, do service.

“I’ve tried to have that attitude growing up. Once I started to get some success I’ve never felt I was better than anybody else because I’m not,” he continued. “I’m just a normal person. I happen to be real good at basketball.

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BYU’s Jimmer Fredette during practice at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana on Wednesday, March 23, 2011.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

“I can make shots and that’s really a cool thing. It puts you in the limelight, but at the same time a lot of people out there have amazing talents that people don’t know about. I’ve been on the stage but I think the biggest thing is I want to be the same person.

“My wife Whitney has done an incredible job of keeping me levelheaded and making sure my head doesn’t get too big. To make sure our priorities are family and being a good person. That’s just how I live my life and hope not to ever change that.”

At 33, Fredette is likely in the fall of his athletic life. He still has the juice and his winter is yet to come. He believes in his heart he can still make a difference on the court with a basketball.

As long as he stays humble, works hard and treats everyone with love and grace, whether it comes or not, he can still win. 

And do it with or without a scoreboard.