It's starting to feel like Madness eve, and citizens all across the nation should grab their TV remotes, sit comfortably, and get fired up for some special entertainment these next few weeks.
The men's college national basketball festival, known as March Madness, launches on March 15th. The tournament odyssey happens every year and culminates at the Final Four April 2nd and 4th in Houston, Texas. Last second buzzer beaters, big upsets, predictable victories, tears of joy and sadness, office bracket pools-you can count on them every year.
What will be new this year, however, is a real life lesson about how small town kids can make it to the big-time through hard work and the determination to prove skeptics wrong. This story will play out amid the attention and excitement surrounding one player with an odd yet hip name: Jimmer Fredette. This unstoppable scorer---leading the nation at 27 points per game and likely to be named the National Player of the Year-grew up in Glens Falls, New York near Albany.
Coming out of high school, Fredette was relatively unheralded, landing just a handful of Tier 2 Division 1 scholarships; one was offered by Siena College in Albany. Even though as a kid he attended Syracuse University basketball camps, they passed on him as scholarship material. What a mistake. My bet is getting overlooked for this scholarship fueled Jimmer's desire to prove them all wrong, and his small town, underdog roots fueled his passion to be great. He's as a great as he is because people told him he couldn't be. I've got to believe Syracuse wishes they had him now; their chances of winning the national championship would be much more realistic.
Brigham Young University, not known as a basketball powerhouse, offered him a scholarship. There he refined his skills. I believe he sweated by himself in the gym, taking thousands and thousands of shots for days and weeks and months and years. His scoring average climbed each year while in college, from 7 points a game as a freshman, to 16 as a sophomore, to 22 as a junior and now 27 as a senior.
Jimmer's range is from anywhere inside the gym. Everyone loves to watch a guy who can make shots from deep. This guy is all about doing that all game long. The difference with Jimmer is while other guys try these long-distance bombs, he makes a much higher percentage than the rest of them.
Fredette has led the #7 ranked BYU Cougars (28 wins and 3 losses) into the tournament with a chance to make it the Final Four. Let's hope that happens for pure entertainment purposes and to inspire kids that they can make it to the top of the mountain, too. He is the most mesmerizing college basketball player. Already in his career he has scored 49, 47 and 43 points in separate games. The longer his team stays alive, the more shots from 30 feet Jimmer will drain, the more fun we will have watching, the more you will hear people buzzing about that guy from BYU who can shoot like no one they've ever seen. Jimmer will be our emotional bridge between the winter we have been enduring and the clinging of aluminum bats baseball diamonds.
No one in college basketball makes more shots from as far away from the basket as Jimmer. Some experts are already saying he can make shots from further out more consistently than any player in professional basketball.
Every once in a generation a basketball player like Jimmer come along to light up America. In the early 1970s it was Pistol Pete Maravich, who averaged 44 points per game at Lousiana State University after also being raised in a diminutive town called Aliquippa, PA (population 11,000). In the late 70s Larry "Legend" Bird dazzled with his incredible touch from downtown. Leading Indiana State University to the National Title Game, Bird grew up in French Lick, Indiana (population 2,000).
Maravich and Bird, and now Jimmer, continue to prove that any kid from any where no matter how small a town they grow up in, through grit and focus, can become the best.