He snagged colossal respect for his shooting range, impressed the president, and generally charmed the college basketball world last season, and on Wednesday evening Jimmer Fredette’s fans proved that no matter the athletic platform, Jimmermania simply cannot be beat.
As if Fredette didn’t have enough hardware recognizing his storied senior season, he topped off his college career with one last trophy, for Best Male College Athlete, at the ESPY awards in Los Angeles.
Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers helmed the show for the second consecutive year, kicking it off with a teasing monologue that touched on everything from the Heat’s Big Three to the NBA and NFL lockouts. He didn’t let BYU off the hook, but did manage to avoid the topic of Jimmer.
Surrounded by sports stars and celebrities, Fredette enjoyed the evening with girlfriend Whitney Wonnacott, a BYU cheerleader and broadcast journalism major, making the trip to the stage a little less than halfway through the awards ceremony.
“Wow, this is crazy,” Fredette said as he accepted his award from Justin Timberlake and 2011 Superbowl MVP Aaron Rodgers. “Thank you very much.”
Fredette expressed his appreciation to the ESPY organizers, his family and supporters in upstate New York, and then Wonnacott, adding that she made him look good on the red carpet. Then he turned his attention to his alma mater.
“Everybody at BYU … I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, the coaching staff there,” Fredette said, offering congratulations to the other nominees. “They’ve had unbelievable years and I wish them all the best of luck.”
Nominees in his category included Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, and Cousy Award winner for best point guard, UConn’s Kemba Walker, both of whom led their teams to national championships last season. Walker was also nominated for Best Championship Performance, which was ultimately won by Tim Thomas for his turn between the pipes in the NHL’s Stanley Cup finals.
“To win an ESPY is something you dream about as a kid,” Fredette said after leaving the stage. ” Just to be here with so many great athletes is a real honor.”
Former BYU teammate and co-captain Logan Magnusson couldn’t have been happier for his friend.
“He deserved it,” Magnusson said. “He captured the attention of everyone … not just BYU fans, but people around the world. Whether they liked him or, for some reason, hated him, they followed him.”
That following was earned through a lot of hard work, said Magnusson, who embarks on his own professional career in Germany next month.
“He earned the love of our fans,” he said. “And he earned the respect of the teams and opponents that we played against as well.”
Fredette led the nation in scoring, was the consensus national player of the year, and propelled BYU to 32 victories and the school’s first Sweet 16 appearance in three decades. In his four years at BYU he dashed record after record, accumulating 2,599 points to surpass Danny Ainge’s all-time record. In one of his final games as a Cougar, Fredette drained shot after shot against New Mexico, and broke the single game scoring record with a blazing 52 points.
That’s a happy memory for Ariel VanDerwerken, a senior in recreation management from Schoharie, NY. Hailing from the same stake as the Fredette family, VanDerwerken happily asserts double the claim on Jimmer.
“In New York, I think it’s a lot like at BYU, we’re very excited and proud of Jimmer right now,” said VanDerwerken, who had the opportunity to get close to the action last season as a marketing assistant with BYU Athletics.
“It was an amazing time to be involved, and be a part of some of the most memorable BYU basketball moments,” VanDerwerken said. “It was exciting to get to work with Jimmer. His fame did a lot of the work for us.”
As a proud member of Jimmermania, VanDerwerken could understand the allure he had for his fans.
“I love Jimmer,” she said. “He’s very personable, and not only a great athlete, but a super genuine and humble person. You automatically feel like you have a connection with Jimmer. I don’t know why, but everyone does.”
The win is another first at BYU. Fredette is not the only alumnus ever honored at the ESPYs – Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young won Male Athlete of the Year in 1995 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers – but he is the first Cougar to be recognized as a college athlete.
While basketball fans nationwide have been singing his praises all year, it’s not just big brother TJ rapping about Jimmer anymore. Coincidentally, Lil Wayne also dropped his new mixtape “Sorry for the Wait” on Wednesday, with a nod to the shooter on the (very BYU-inappropriate) track “Sure Thing”.
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