1. Jimmer Fredette. Remember that name, all you folks who only pay attention to the NCAA tournament when it's time to fill out your bracket for the office pool. He's the Mormon scoring sensation at Brigham Young University who is the talk of college basketball right now.
The 6-foot-1 guard is dropping 30-foot bombs for a joke and slicing through defenses for twisting lay-ups when they try to stop that. He leads the NCAA in scoring with 27.4 per game and dropped 43 points to hand No.4 San Diego State their first loss of the season, prompting Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder to tweet: Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the world!!
That may be a stretch -- most people would argue it's Durant, who had 47 points of his own last night -- but he's fun to watch, and whether people are comfortable with or not, there's something kind of neat -- underdoggy maybe? -- about watching a white guy tear it up on the basketball court. I think you can say that without setting the Internets on fire; let's face it, it doesn't happen very often -- Steve Nash beware.
In the meantime Fredette, a converted Mormon, is getting some serious rock star treatment: After No. 9 BYU had sealed a hard-fought 71-58 win over No. 4 San Diego State, knocking the Aztecs from the ranks of the undefeated, the frenzy intensified. Swarms of white-clad students rushed the floor. The crush of people and cameras trying to get close to BYU senior Jimmer Fredette was so suffocating that officials hustled Fredette to a place behind press row so he could enjoy the mayhem from a safe remove. Suddenly, a police officer appeared at his side. Thats when Jimmer Fredette graduated from folk hero to rock star."That was a little crazy," said Fredette later. "I had never experienced that before. It was cool ... but a little scary."That's what you get when you score 43 points in the biggest, most-hyped regular-season game in school history (and the biggest one nationally so far this season). The game didn't disappoint; it was close until the last four minutes. But ultimately, the Aztecs were just like just everyone else who has faced BYU this season: they didn't have answer for the Jimmer. The Aztecs, the best defensive team in the conference, threw all sorts of defenders at Fredette, from D.J. Gay to Billy White to Chase Tapley, sometimes two at a time. The defensive pressure frequently forced him to change his mind in mid-air and pass instead of shoot (and he coughed up the ball four times) but he still filled the bucket. For one stretch starting midway through the second half, Fredette scored 24 of the Cougars' 27 points. Altogether Fredette made 14 of 24 shots, including five of eight from beyond the arc (often way beyond the arc). He did his best work in the lane, working hard to get off floaters and off-balance shots against a forest of long arms."He's a great player who knows how to get open shots," said sophomore forward Brandon Davies. "When he's hot like that all we do is crash the boards and get the ball to him."San Diego coach Steve Fisher said Fredette is "as good a player as I have ever coached against. He is just sensational and extremely hard to guard. Fredette scored every time he got the ball there for a stretch."
2. Last night Trey Johnson made his Toronto Raptors debut; the D-League bucket filler is yet another 10-day contract signee. Hayley Mick did a nice job chronicalling his first day trying to make an impression that could change his life: After signing, Johnson called his parents. He tweeted: "Thanking God!" Then he ate dinner with his former D-League coach Scott Roth, now an assistant coach with the Raptors. Roth picked Johnson for Bakersfield back in the 2007-2008 season and has kept tabs on his young star ever since. "We've got to be coaches, but we've got to be their friends, too," Roth said. "I'm a product of that league, I'm a product of that hard work it takes to get out of there. And I'm always cheering for those guys."
Roth knows that 10-day contracts are still a long shot. Players don't often get the minutes they need to display their abilities. (Johnson has had one other 10-day contract, with Cleveland in 2008-2009, during which he played in four games.)
But Johnson, Roth said, is a special case. He's tough and he's a scorer, but he's also single-minded in his quest to make the NBA. He played professionally in Europe last season, then took a big pay cut to return to the D-League to try to claw his way out.
"This is my goal, this is my dream, so I felt like to leave and take money, I'd be giving up on myself," Johnson said.