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Jimmer Fredette's legend grows on NCAA Tournament stage

NEW ORLEANS

Here in a tiny corner of the Jimmerverse, even idols can get upgrades. Jimmer Fredette, the best scorer in the world, was walking off a floor at the New Orleans Arena — the Jimmernasium, you might say — when he noticed the sign in the corner. He grinned, then he walked over toward the bleachers. "Romney/Jimmer — 2012," it said. Except that recently, the owner had drawn a line through the message on the top of the poster board. Underneath, he had edited his own message. "Jimmer/Romney — 2012," it now said.

"The more I thought about it, the more I thought Jimmer should be president and Mitt Romney should be vice president," said Jeff Fuller, a BYU fan from Baton Rouge, La. "Jimmer is my main Mormon man-crush these days."

So it goes here in Jimmer's world, where a delicious brand of lunacy called Jimmermania surrounds the BYU basketball program. These days, you can buy Jimmer mugs and Jimmer T-shirts, Jimmer basketballs and Jimmer photographs, Jimmer bumper stickers and Jimmer throw pillows. For crying out loud, you can buy a Jimmer Fredette thong.

In Provo, Utah, babies have been named Jimmer. Songs have been written for him. Fans have proposed marriage. Soon, streets may be named for him. He has taken over the school, the sport, the Sweet 16. It is all about Jimmer now. He has graduated from shooting guard to soaring legend.

Tonight, all the Florida Gators have to do is stop all of the silliness.

Just that.

Fredette has become the hottest player in college basketball. He scored 52 against New Mexico, 49 against Utah, 43 against San Diego State. Last year against Florida, he scored 37.

He hits baskets from so deep you'd swear he thinks there is a four-point line, and he hits baskets at the end of wild, winding drives to the hole, and he hits baskets that look awkward and baskets that look wayward. He is relentless, and judging from the variety of ways opponents have tried to defend him, he is unstoppable.

He is also the most popular athlete ever to sweat in Provo. He has turned placard making into a competition at BYU games.

There have been fans coordinating three posters: "Fredette About It!"

There have been fans coordinating six posters: "J-I-M-M-E-R."

There have been fans coordinating seven posters: "Jim-Jimmery-Jim-Jimmery-Jim-Jim-Jarroo."

If all of this sounds vaguely familiar to Gator fans, and it should, there is a reason. They know all about excellence when it is surrounded by hyperbole and shaped into mythology.

In other words, if Tim Tebow had played college basketball, he would have been Jimmer Fredette.

Think about it. Despite their college careers, both had critics insisting they would be mediocre pros. Both were religious, likable kids. And, if you believe in the BYU honor code that got teammate Brandon Davies suspended for having premarital sex this year, both are, um, innocent.

Also, fans swiped all the Chuck Norris lines they could to honor them both.

For instance: "Jimmer Fredette can speak French … in Russian."

And this one: "One time, the BYU team was walking on the beach and they looked back and saw only one set of footprints."

And this one: "When playing Scrabble, if you spell out the word 'Jimmer,' you automatically win … forever."

Even more serious basketball observers have joined the chorus. Kevin Durant, one of the best scorers in the NBA, has called Fredette the best scorer in the world. These days, Fredette is compared to Pete Maravich, to Stephen Curry, even to Gators coach Billy Donovan, who was once a star guard at Providence.

"He's a lot better than I was. I'll tell you that," Donovan said, laughing. "I would say I was probably somebody that loved the game like he loves the game. The problem for me was that I just wasn't as good as he was."

The Maravich comparison doesn't quite work, either. Yes, Fredette leads the nation with a 26.2 average, but Maravich averaged 44.2 for his career in an era that didn't have the 3-point shot.

Still, it's fairly impressive when you consider how unwanted Fredette was as a young player. He grew up just outside of small Glen Falls, N.Y., one of those kids who dribbles the ball through his house (and whose mother allowed it). He was a little slow, a little small, a little chubby. Still, his older brother, T.J., helped fashion his ambition.

In 2007, he wrote out a contract to himself that he would do everything possible to make it to the NBA.

Eventually, that story may read that Fredette wrote the column in a log cabin by the light of the fireplace.

That's what greatness does. It embellishes. It rewrites reality.

Tonight, the Gators have to change all of that. They have to conquer the legend, which is pretty good.

The thing is, the player is pretty good, too.

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>>fast facts

Jimmerology

His full name is James Taft Fredette — Jim, for short. His mother, Kay, added the extra syllable when he was young. "She liked the name James, and she had a brother named Jim," Fredette said. "She just put that extra M-E-R on it, and it stuck ever since." It's worked out pretty well, prompting Suns All-Star guard Steve Nash to tweet this year: "Jimmer Fredette? Man, that name's straight outta Hoosiers. No wonder he never misses."

Jimmer Fredette's legend grows on NCAA Tournament stage 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:47pm]
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