Mar

22

 As Florida prepares once again to face the preeminent, college basketball 3-point shooter, BYU's Jimmer Fredette (121 of 298, 40.6%, from beyond 20 feet 9 inches), in the NCAA Sweet 16, thoughts of anxious coaches, fans and alumni turn to how to avoid being "Jimmered". Many wonder how Fredette could develop a touch to sink shots from 22, 23.75 (pro distance) and the statistically ridiculous, 25 (downtown) or more feet?

To shut the Jimmer down is going to be a very difficult task. The two schools of thought that come to the forefront are: 1) Let him get his points, contain him as best possible, and clamp down on his teammates and limit BYU shots through effective rebounding and 2) Harass and double-team the boy wonder, deny him the ball in the 3-point zone, and give up defensive pressure on his skilled teammates. There are varying defensive sets and strategies to try out—using UF senior forward, 6 foot 10-inch Chandler Parsons to provide help on the 6 foot 2-inch Fredette, starting a running game with BYU in hopes of wearing out Fredette's legs, working Jimmer hard on defense, and the dubious action of denying shots through fouling and other forms of harassment. In short, hope and pray the Jimmer has a bad day, goes cold and loses his mojo in New Orleans Arena.

But how do these shooters with downtown range develop? A derogatory moniker can quickly become attached to shooters by fellow youngsters— you are a "gunner", "hot dog" or "selfish" player. Coaches will oftentimes bench and lecture players who shoot from pro distances and discourage the taking of "bad shots". Misses from long distances will be decried while less skilled players clank shots off the rim from 15 feet. Multiple laps around the court, "suicides", "6-counters" and other tiring exercises will be prescribed as punishment, to express disapproval and to correct the ways of the offending youngster who dares to shoot from well beyond the arc.

In Fredette's case, his skills and mindset were developed early with the help of family and mentors:

Jimmer's most steadfast supporter was TJ, who recognized a prodigy in his chunky little brother. "He was the most determined, competitive four-year-old I had ever seen," says TJ, who is seven years older. Playing with TJ and TJ's friends on the family's backyard court, Jimmer developed range—at five he could drain a three—and an arsenal of head fakes, scoop shots and floaters to get around the long limbs. "He willed himself to find ways to win, even if he was physically outmatched," says TJ. "From the time he was 10, I was telling everybody he was going to make the NBA."

At eight Jimmer graduated to pickup ball with Al and TJ against adults at Crandall Park, then Hoop It Up tournaments, then trips to Hartford and New York City for no-foul games on the blacktop "that toughened him up," says Al. Jimmer's development was a family affair: Al, a financial adviser, helped coach his AAU teams while Kay—a substitute teacher who coined the nickname Jimmer at birth (his real name is James)—put no restrictions on bouncing the ball in the house and even built him a small dribbling studio in the basement with a linoleum floor and mirrors on the wall. Kay's brother, Lee Taft, a personal trainer who now runs his eponymous Speed Academy in Indianapolis, started him on running drills when he was five. "I wouldn't be where I am today without him," says Fredette, who still works out with Taft. "He's the reason I move as well as I do."


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