Its not often that a player from a smaller school really becomes must see TV in the college basketball world. Much less from a Mormon college, and even rarer for that to carry into the country’s prison system. That however is exactly what has happened in the case of Jimmer Fredette from BYU.
If you don’t know who Jimmer is by now, yes he can go by a one word name like Prince, you obviously aren’t even a casual basketball fan. Fredette has been lighting up the college basketball world for the last couple years now and in this his final year its reached an almost fever pitch. Jimmer pours in points from anywhere on the court. He often hoists up shots that would make even the NBA 3 point line blush, and nails them.
Just last week another player of the year candidate, Kemba Walker from UConn, put in a magnificent game during the Big East tournament. Walker lit it up for 31 points and it surely seemed destined to be the performance of the day. That was until Jimmer stepped on the court later that night against New Mexico and scored 33 points….. in the first half. He would go on to pour in a career high 52 points that night and seems to just keep getting better and better.
This year’s NCAA tourney is set to be a big stage that Jimmer could use to further cement himself in college football lore. These hopes did seem to take a big hit though a few weeks ago when the extremely rule heavy BYU kicked 2nd leading scorer and leading rebounder Brandon Davies off the team. This happened because Davies was determined to have violated the school’s archaic “honor code”. What was his mortal sin to necessitate such a heavy reaction you might ask? The troubled Mr. Davies had the weak moral character to have consensual sex with his girlfriend, oh the horror. Of course even if they are bounced this year, Mr. Fredette already cemented himself in my book last year when he poured in 37 points, including 2 killer 3′s in double OT, to lead BYU over my beloved Florida Gators.
What I wanted to talk about today though was an interesting story by Jeff Eisenberg of Rivals.com entitled “Jimmermania has Even Reached the New York Prison System”. This story talks about how prison life seems to stop at a correctional facility in Wilton, NY whenever a BYU game happens to be on national TV. It might seem odd that a prison in upstate New York is so drawn to a player from a heavily religious college in Utah, that is until you delve into the rich history between the two.
Jimmer himself is from the area of the prison having been born and growing up in Glen Falls, NY. A town I had only heard of from my swept under the rug hippie days, as where Phish started their Halloween covering an album tradition with an masterful set of The Beatles White Album. This geographically tie though is not nearly enough for crimnals serving time to carry about some local player. Nope, these miscreants feel a much more personal tie.
Back in the Spring of 2007, Jimmer and his older brother joined a team of civilians that went into the prison to actually play games against the inmates. No doubt this had something to do with not only the mental, but the physical toughness that Fredette displays out there on the court. The fact that he was willing to go in there and take on that challenge earned him the respect of the inmates at Mount McGregor Correctional Facility.
According to Mount McGregor Recreational Director John Montgomery, the players can’t get enough of Jimmer. He says “The inmates vote on what they want to watch on TV each week, and of course, they want to watch Jimmer, if BYU’s on our local television, every dorm will have the game on. Every inmate will want to watch. They do have that connection to him. They think, ‘God, he was up here playing against us.”
Fredette of course vividly remembers his experiences playing at the prison. Everything from the armed guards standing around for protection, to the big mountain of liability paperwork he had to fill out, to the extreme by any standards trash talking he had to put up with. According to Fredette the experience was a great help to his game. “Obviously there are a lot more people in big arenas in college, but what they say to you doesn’t bother you because I heard pretty much everything in those prisons,” Fredette said. “I think that helped me get better at blocking the crowd out and just focusing on the game.”
While Jimmer hasn’t returned to the prison to play, his brother still goes occasionally and deals with a constant barrage of questions about how his little brother is doing. The inmates seem to be enthralled with the kid with the great shooting touch that wasn’t scared to enter their world. So while your sitting on your comfortable couch at home watching Jimmer put on the inevitable show later this week that has to be coming, just know that up in Wilton, NY there are cell blocks full of criminals cheering even louder for the silky smooth white kid from that Mormon college in Utah.