Jimmer Fredette returning to China, Shanghai Sharks
Jimmer Fredette is returning to the Shanghai Sharks next month after missing the first four months of the Chinese Basketball Association’s season due to COVID-19 rules. He will join the team for its final 10 regular-season games and the playoffs.
Fredette will take two COVID-19 tests this week before departing the U.S. on Jan. 31, assuming both tests are negative. He will undergo a 14-day quarantine with ongoing testing upon arrival in China.
He joins a Sharks team in second place in the league with a 22–5 record. The top four teams in the CBA receive a first-round playoff bye.
Fredette is bullish about his team’s potential this season.
“They’re doing really well this year, which has been great,” he said. “We’ve got some really good Chinese players that just came in this season that are really helping.”
One such addition is center Zhelin Wang, the Shark’s leading scorer averaging 17.5 points and eight rebounds per game. Wang previously played with the CBA’s Fujian Sturgeons for nine seasons. While Wang’s scoring rate now is slightly below his career average of 20.2, the Sharks are well-balanced offensively with all five starters averaging double digits in scoring.
Fredette’s focus in his return is to make a deep playoff run, regardless of how large or small a role he plays.
“I think we have a good shot to be really competitive in the playoffs,” he said. “This year we’re looking to advance and make some noise. I just am there to try to help the team win in any way that I can.”
Despite returning to the same league and team, Fredette will be adjusting to several changes. Li ChunJiang is in his first season as the Sharks’ head coach.
“He’s a tough-minded coach,” Fredette said of Li. “He gets the guys to play hard. He likes to play really fast pace, just kind of go out and run and gun and make sure that you’re in good shape and ready to go. He’s a good coach. He has been to championships over there. We definitely respect each other.”
The CBA also has new rules governing foreign players. Previously, each team was allowed two foreign players on the roster, and those players could play as often as teams wished. Now, the CBA has removed the cap on foreign players per roster, but only one can be on the court at a time.
The Sharks have two other foreign players with shooting guard Jamaal Franklin and power forward Noah Vonleh, so not only will Fredette have to fit into the rotation at his point guard position, but he will also have to share his minutes with Franklin and Vonleh.
“It’s more about trying to win and help these guys, to fit in, to be a leader, and give a sense of calmness and a sense of someone who’s been there and done it with these guys to try to help them in tough situations and provide something they need,” Fredette said.
Fredette and Franklin actually played against each other in college, as Franklin was a member of the San Diego State team that famously dueled BYU during Fredette’s senior season in 2010-11.
Franklin’s lone appearance against BYU came in the Mountain West championship game, where he logged one rebound and one assist in eight minutes. Franklin was the 41 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, selected by the Memphis Grizzlies. He made 24 appearances in two NBA seasons.
Vonleh is in his first season with the Sharks after joining in December. He played one season at Indiana in 2013-14 before being the ninth pick in the 2014 NBA draft, selected by the Charlotte Hornets. In his seven NBA seasons, Vonleh played for 10 teams, starting 171 of the 339 games he appeared in.
Fredette says the CBA is still deciding whether to host games in home arenas or a bubble, but he believes it is more likely the season will conclude in the latter option. According to New York City-based Chinese news site SupChina, the bubble is in Zhuji, Zhejiang province.
While Fredette looks forward to playing competitive basketball again, he has enjoyed the opportunity to be with his family. Fredette and his wife, Whitney, have two kids with one more on the way.
“It’s been amazing to spend the holiday season with my family,” Fredette said. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to do that with my kids, be able to spend time at home and do Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all together, and New Year’s.”
At the end of the season, Fredette will be out of contract with the Sharks. He looks forward to weighing his options as he decides his future.
“I’m gonna be 33 in February, and from that point, I’ve obviously played 11 seasons professionally and I feel like I could play longer if I wanted to, and it just kind of depends on how I feel after the season and what options arise,” he said. “We’ll keep the options open and see, but I’ll go and have a good rest of this season first, and then from there, I’ll kind of sit back and think about what I want to do after that.”
In his four seasons with the Sharks, Fredette is averaging 34.2 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
CBA stats, rosters and standings courtesy of reference site Asia-Basket.