When casually discussing BYU basketball with an out-of-towner, there are at least two names they should be able to come up with: Jimmer Fredette and Danny Ainge. The former is the school’s all-time leading scorer, and was the 2011 consensus National Player of the Year (Wooden, Naismith, Oscar Robertson, AP, Basketball Times, and NABC) in 2011, leading the Cougars to the Sweet 16. The latter scored the game-winning lay up to advance the Cougars to the Elite Eight (the furthest they have advanced in NCAA Tournament) in 1981, and holds an NCAA record, scoring in double-figures in 112 consecutive games.
While both were nothing short of spectacular in Provo, they experienced vastly different professional careers. Ainge won two NBA Championships with the Boston Celtics and played in the 1988 All-Star Game. He’s now one of the most lauded GMs in the league, guiding the Celtics to top spot in the Eastern Conference last year and building a roster that looks set to contend for years to come.
Meanwhile, Fredette struggled to be anything more than a three-point threat in his brief NBA career, and has now taken his services overseas. Sports Betting Dime has set the odds on Fredette playing in another NBA game at 7/3 (a 30-percent chance). For an athletically-limited guy approaching 30, those odds aren’t bad at all.
Last year, the former tenth-overall pick signed a one-year contract to play in the Chinese Basketball Association, a league best known for harboring players like Stephon Marbury, JR Smith, and Michael Beasley. While it likely wasn’t his first choice, the move paid off. In Fredette’s first year with the Shanghai Sharks, a team owned by Yao Ming, he led the league in scoring, averaging 37.6 PPG while shooting 39.6-percent from behind the arc. The outstanding season earned Fredette CBA International MVP honors.
The successful showing also landed Jimmer multiple ten-day contract offers from NBA teams early in April. However, Fredette declined the offers, wishing instead to spend time with his wife and their new daughter. During the NBA offseason, Jimmer received more NBA-contract offers, but none were fully-guaranteed. As a result, the 28-year-old has opted to go back to Shanghai for the 2017-18 season.
Will BYU’s brightest star ever make it back to the NBA? The interest from NBA teams, although still mild, is a great sign for Fredette. The league’s movement towards smaller lineups with a heightened focus on the three-ball plays right into Jimmer’s hands. Let’s look forward to seeing him back in the NBA in the near future.