The Return of a King


Saturday night was not a regular game in the eyes of the fans at EnergySolutions Arena. Ticket prices were up higher than expected for a 6-13 team, the media was crowding around the visitors dressing room, and there were flashes of purple jerseys in the crowd at opening tip. All of this excitement was for one reason.

“Starting for the Sacramento Kings,” boomed the announcer, “Number 7, Jimmer Fredette, at guard.”

[easyembed field=”Photogallery”]Jimmermania. For the first time since watching him score 38 points in 38 minutes against Wyoming last year, fans had their chance to watch Fredeette play in the state where he became a local superstar.

The game drew a sell-out crowd, including former BYU athletes Chad Lewis and Austin Collie. Fans had been gathering before the starting lineups were announced, eager to see the player who captured the attention of the nation in an award-winning season. After hearing his name through the loudspeakers, the stadium burst into noise.

“We’ve been watching him for awhile this season,” said Kamron Crandall, a Fredette fan from American Fork. “He’s been killing it recently, and it’s nice to see him back.”

Not all the fans felt the same way, however. The noise made during the announcing of the starting lineups had a good amount of boos in it as well. The boos would continue raining down from the seats every time Fredette touched the ball.

“It was kind of funny, I’m sure they (the Jazz) are not used to hearing cheers when someone on the other team scores. It was great to hear the support, and I appreciate all the fans that came out to support myself and my teammates,” Fredette said, when asked about the crowd noise.

Fredette started the game in the backcourt alongside Tyreke Evans, and played the length of the first quarter. He started off looking nervous, missing his first two shots and getting blocked by forward Paul Millsap. With one and a half minutes left on the clock, though, the crowd got their second chance to show their appreciation as he drained a 3-point shot from the left wing.

“I’m shooting the ball well, just being confident out there, feel like every time it’s getting better, I’m more comfortable and the shots are starting to fall,” Fredette said. “I’ll continue to work hard, but it feels good to have shots go in.”

Jimmer ended up playing 31 minutes on the night, entertaining his fans with two more 3-pointers and two classic drives to through the lane, finishing with a lay-in over a defender. The game remained close, and after a missed free throw by Jazz guard Devin Harris, the scoreboard read 95-93 with 15 seconds left on the clock.

The crowd rose to its feet, cheering on the players, as the Kings set to inbound the ball. A dribble penetration into the lane led to the ball being knocked out of bounds, possession for the Kings. Fredette’s teammate kicked the ball out to him, he took a step back behind the 3-point line, and let fly the potential game-winning shot, only to see it miss everything. Possession and the game ended up with the Jazz.

After the game, Fredette was positive despite the loss.

“It was a lot of fun, I was looking forward to it, it was a great time, exactly what I expected,” he said. “I think the fans were very pleased, and they couldn’t ask for a better game.”

Fredette and the Kings flew back to California, with a game Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland. The game Saturday was the first of two Sacramento will play in Utah this year — the other one being March 30.

“I’ve just had to watch him play on TV, so it was nice to see him play in person,” said Fredette’s fiancee, Whitney Wonnacott. “We had a bunch of family and friends get tickets to see him live, and it’s exciting to have him back for a game.”

With the loss, the Kings fell to 6-14 while the Jazz improved to 11-7.

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