Thursday, July 07, 2011

Jimmer to keep busy on the golf course

By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA - Jimmer Fredette probably thought his debut  as a professional athlete would be as a member of the Sacramento Kings' Las Vegas Summer League team.

Instead,  thanks to the NBA lockout, the BYU sharpshooter, who was acquired by the  Kings in  a  three-way deal  on  draft night  after  being selected  10th overall,  will  display his  talents for  the first time  at the 2011 American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe on July 15-17.

Fredette, the National Player of the Year after averaging nearly 29 points per game  last  season, actually  received his invitation  to the American Century Championship,  a competition  for  celebrities and  athletes  that play  golf, before  he  was drafted,  making him the  only collegian ever  to be given the opportunity to play.

"Just  looking  at the names that  are playing in this tournament -- [Michael] Jordan  and  Jerry Rice  and  John  Elway --  all  these  guys who  have  been unbelievable  athletes in  their respective sports, so getting the opportunity to  play in  this  golf  tournament and  having  this  invitation extended  to me was a real honor," Fredette said.

"And  even  though I'm not the  best golfer in the  world, I'm going to go out there and have a great time, relax and have fun."

The  former  BYU star already  has an impressive following.  He was by far the most popular player at the NBA Draft, which was held in Newark, NJ on June 23, and  a group of  fans held a "Jimmer Jam" during the festivities in Fredette's hometown of Glens Falls, NY.

"It's  great. It's great to have that support back home," Fredette said. "It's obviously  where I grew up and was raised my whole entire life, and I'll never forget  the people that  helped me get to this position where I am today. It's very,  very exciting for myself and everybody back in Glen Falls, and I'm glad that they are still supporting me."

Members of the BYU-affiliated Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have also been very vocal in their support.

"I  have  heard that there  are going to  be quite a  few people going to (the tournament)  who are LDS  and that's great. I am looking forward to being able to go out and represent BYU and the Church and a lot of these things that I do and  I  am happy  to do  that. I love  it," Fredette  stated. "And hopefully I continue  to  be a  positive light  for the LDS  people out  there and for our Church."

Despite the lack of a consistent track record on the golf course, Fredette has been installed at 40-1 to win the tournament by the Harrah's Tahoe Sportsbook. Jordan  is  also 40-1. Dallas  Cowboys quarterback  Tony Romo and former Major League  Baseball  pitcher Rick  Rhoden  have  been installed  as  co-favorites
at  5-2, while Charles Barkley is 500-1. Barkley has, of course, become almost as  famous for  his herky-jerky golf swing  as for his Hall of Fame basketball career.

"I'm not up to Michael Jordan level, that's for sure," explained Fredette when talking  about  his golf game.  "I'm probably  more towards Barkley. I haven't played  a  whole lot.  I can  hit the ball  decently and  I'll hit some decent shots, but I need to work on my driving so that it doesn't hook so much."

Perhaps  Fredette's sweet  stroke on the basketball court is coloring people's expectations.  After  all, some of the  mechanics of a jump shot can translate very  well  to the golf  course, and the pressure  of sinking a game-winner in front  of  thousands of screaming  fans can certainly  compare to making a big
putt on live television.

"It’s  going be  different for sure," Jimmer  said. "I never played golf on TV before  and I haven't played that often. I'm not a regular golfer like some of these guys are yet.

"It’s going to be nerve-racking and hopefully I can just dive in and not worry about the cameras or the people watching. Hopefully I can have my help from my caddie, read the green a little bit and deal with putting it in the hole."

Fredette  is  expected to  draw large  galleries at Lake  Tahoe, which is just 100 miles from Sacramento, his new NBA home.

"Hopefully  [the Kings'] fan base is excited because I'm really excited to get out  there  and start  the season with  them and have  a great year," Fredette said. "So I'm looking forward to it."

Jimmer  also  seems especially excited to  play with Tyreke Evans, the 2009-10 NBA Rookie of the Year that took a bit of a step back last season, thanks to a case of plantar fasciitis.

"He's  a slashing  guard and able to  get into the lane, very physical guy who can guard the point and the two, because he is so big," the rookie stated when talking  about Evans. "So that's an advantage. Hopefully I think we'll be able to play really, really well together."

Of  course, Fredette can't play with Evans until the NBA and its players agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, something most think will take quite a bit of time.

Fredette however, is preparing for business as usual.

"I'm  just going  to continue to do  it just as if  there it was going to be a season starting right on time," Fredette said. "You've just got to continue to work hard, and work on the things that I need to get better at.

"So  I don't  think anything is going to  change for me as far as my workouts. I'm still going to do the best that I possibly can to get prepared to play for the Kings."

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