By Brooke Ward
After a star-studded, golf-filled weekend in Tahoe, Nev., it was back to the familiarity of Utah and a basketball court for Jimmer Fredette, as he and his family hosts the first annual Jimmer Camp in Lehi this week.
The sold-out shooting camp, which runs through Friday, has more than 200 participants in each of the three daily sessions. Some of them have come from as far as Texas and New York to participate, said camp partner Marty Haws, a former BYU guard and father of 2009 BYU freshman standout Tyler Haws.
“That says a lot about Jimmer,” Haws said of the turnout. “Everybody wants to be around him. There’s an intrigue about him that’s fun, but the thing that’s interesting is that it’s not just that he’s a great basketball player. People understand that there’s more to Jimmer than just basketball.”
Fredette’s father, Al, is acutely aware that Jimmer’s appeal goes far beyond the court.
“I’ve had so many people tell me that they don’t watch sports, but they never miss a minute of Jimmer’s games,” Al Fredette said. “They’re rooting for him because they think he is a good person.”
Helping younger players find their own ambiguous “more” is what Jimmer envisioned for this camp.
“I hope that they take away from it how to be a good basketball player but also, learning how to be a good person and to make the right choices and being able to excel both on and off the floor,” he said prior to the camp.
In the past few days, that has played out through a number of drills, speed and agility workouts, motivational talks from coaches and the Fredettes. Brother TJ has been on hand throughout the camp, pushing the participants the same way he pushed his little brother.
“When I worked with Jimmer the main thing was the challenge,” he said. “Once a kid gets really good at something you push them to try something new, or to try it a new way, like shooting from the left hand.”
The most unique aspect of the camp, however, is the off-court sessions with guest speakers, Haws said. These include sports psychiatrists and such athletes as former major league baseball MVP Dale Murphy, tackling various issues: the mental game, ethical questions and tough decision-making.
Haws said he has worked a lot of camps, but has never seen the commitment level to the off-court component that the Fredettes have integrated here. It’s important, Haws said, because most kids won’t become professional basketball players, but Fredette’s example is equally applicable to them.
“If you can be like Jimmer off the court, then that’s what’s important,” Haws said.
Even though Fredette hasn’t been on hand for every session, he’s made waves among the young participants, many of whom are already happily sporting his Kings jersey.
“It’s always been my dream to meet an NBA player, so I guess that’s something I can cross off the bucket list,” said 13-year-old Josh Judd, who made the 15-hour trek from Cardston, Canada, with more than 20 other young basketball players, in hopes of improving his own skills.
College basketball isn’t big in Canada, but in their predominantly LDS border town, Fredette brought BYU basketball to the forefront, explained Judd’s friend Mattlen Gibb, 13.
“The whole town pretty much talks about Jimmer. Our sports shop even sells Jimmer T-shirts,” she said.