by Daniel Olsen
With another 70-point game under his belt, is Jimmer Fredette the greatest to ever wear a BYU basketball uniform? While his NBA career ended prematurely, let’s look at his career as a whole and compare his production to other BYU players at each level.
Fredette became one of the greatest scorers in the history of the state of high school hoops in New York. He finished his career with 2,404 career points and was the all-time leading scorer at Glen Falls High School. This is especially impressive when considering New York is the fourth most populous state in the USA.
When you compare him to the high school careers of other BYU basketball players, the results aren’t close. Tyler Haws, the all-time career leading scorer in BYU history, only had 1,772 point. However, that could be due to having other scoring options at Lone Peak High School. Fredette was the primary scoring option at Glen Falls.
Also, while Ainge didn’t match Fredette in scoring, he was a three-sport high school player who was recognized my MaxPreps as one of the best high school athletes ever. He was an All-American in basketball and football and had a short career in the MLB with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The other highest scoring high school players who went on to play basketball for BYU are UHSAA career scoring record holder Gary Hill (Gunnison Valley – 2,283), Randy Reid (Spanish Fork – 2,191), and his brother Robbie Reid (Spanish Fork – 2,032). The Lone Peak Big 3 in Nick Emery, TJ Haws and Eric Mika all flirted with 2,000 points during their time with the Knights. Had any of them been the primary scoring option, perhaps one of them would have challenged Fredette’s individual prep success. While their national success was worth it, Fredette runs away with the title of best high school basketball player who would later play for BYU.
This is tougher. While Fredette was stellar his senior year, other BYU players also had stellar resumes in throughout their college days. Danny Ainge, like Fredette, also won the National Player of the Year award and made it to a Sweet 16. Haws scored slightly more career points than Jimmer in college. Shawn Bradley was a block machine.
I hate to give in to recency bias but I will have to in this case. While Ainge was just as accomplished as Fredette, the tiebreaker goes to the better scorer and I have never seen a more prolific scorer in the college level than I did at the peak of Jimmermania. Fredette pulled up from 40 feet before the Splash Brothers made it cool in the NBA. The 28.9 points per game his senior year were insane and included several 40-point games and even a 51 point game against New Mexico.
This is one area where I think Jimmer does not have the advantage. His game never translated to the NBA the way it did for other BYU basketball players. He averaged just six points per game in his time in the National Basketball Association. He averaged only a rebound and 1.4 assists per game as well.
In contrast, Ainge won two NBA championship during his time with the Boston Celtics and also was selected as an NBA All-Star in 1988. Bradley did not shoot the lights out but being one of the tallest players in NBA history helped him be a decent rim protector throughout his career. He led the NBA in blocks in 1997 and produced significantly more than Fredette did. His career averages of 8.1 points per game along with 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks made him more valuable than Jimmer. He never had to go overseas to find a job. You can’t teach seven feet and Bradley was six inches above that. Size is one area that hindered Fredette throughout his career. He just wasn’t tall enough and didn’t have the athleticism to defend guards or create his own shot at this level.
Edge: Danny Ainge
After a brilliant high school and hyped college career, it seemed nearly impossible for Fredette to eclipse that fame he once had after a sub-par NBA career. That all changed once he signed to play in front of billions. He became an international sensation once he began his career in the Chinese Basketball Association for the Shanghai Sharks.
Some of the highest individual scoring games in CBA history were played by Fredette. The record-holder scored 82 points (Erick McCollum) but Jimmer is tied for second best with a 75-point outing on November 11, 2018. He also had a 73 point game the previous year. He has averaged over 35 points per game throughout his time in China.
While Fredette is one of the best at three of these four categories, I believe that NBA is the most important category. There were a few other players that were close to him in the other categories as well. At this point in his career I believe he has done slightly more than Ainge. His career in China doesn’t seem like it could be replicated by any other Cougar. I don’t care if you’re scoring 70 points in a rec league. That’s an enormous amount of points!
Ainge has done some good things for the Celtics since retiring though. Boston won the NBA Finals with him in the front office in 2008. If Jimmer can continue to have a prolific career overseas and continue to give back to the sport after retiring, he will be the undisputed best basketball player to ever wear a BYU uniform.
Featured image courtesy Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo