Final Four Focus provides coverage of the Final Four by standout students enrolled
in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.
In its inaugural year of an agreement with the NCAA, the Curley Center provides students with the opportunity to work side-by-side with members of the media at the Final Four.
Matt Fortuna, from New York City, has worked for four years at The Daily Collegian, currently serving as arts editor after covering and editing sports for three years. His freelance work has appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The New York Times and the Detroit Free Press, among others. Previously, he’s held internship positions at the Altoona (Pa.) Mirror and with MLB.com in Pittsburgh. This summer, he will return to MLB.com as an associate reporter covering the Yankees.
Nate Mink has worked four years at The Daily Collegian, currently serving as a copy editor after providing football coverage the last two years. His freelance work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press and Baltimore Sun, among others. Previously, he’s held internship positions at The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., and the Philadelphia Daily News. This summer, he will work as an associate reporter with MLB.com in Philadelphia.
By Nate Mink
Special to NCAA.org
HOUSTON — It never gets old, the oops-a-daisy remarks coaches give for letting Brigham Young University guard Jimmer Fredette slip through the recruiting cracks, how the Associated Press and United States Basketball Writers Association national player of the year recipient was overlooked.
Mike Brey was the latest to admit it, the Big East coach who did not have the nation’s leading scorer from the heart of Big East country on his radar.
Almost certainly, joking about neglecting the Glens Falls, N.Y. native when building his program at Notre Dame is a lot easier to excuse while accepting the USBWA national coach of year award, which Brey did Friday morning alongside Fredette at a breakfast that also honored the 1982-1984 Phi Slama Jama University of Houston men’s basketball teams.
“It’s crazy to think someone can do it, but I hope it gives all small town kids hope the same way Larry Bird did back in the day,” Fredette said.
In one memorable day, the athlete that emerged from beneath the hype of high-profile recruits received a succession of national awards. Any one of them would provide a lifetime thrill for most players. Fredette began his day at a downtown convention center ballroom, where he received the USBWA award named for Oscar Robertson and addressed the inaugural recipient as “Mister.”
Then he went several miles south, to a hotel adjacent to Reliant Stadium, where he was awarded the A.P. trophy. Later in the afternoon, at center court during a break in the Final Four practices, Fredette accepted the Lowe’s Senior CLASS (CQ) Award for excellence in four areas – community, classroom, character and competition.
In a Kodak image of the two posing for pictures with their new hardware at the A.P. announcement, Fredette and Brey talked about how the coach’s perimeter-based offense and Fredette would’ve been an ideal fit. “We would have found a couple of shots for you,” Brey said with a smile as the two stood next to their awards.
After all, it’s the seemingly endless range of the 6-foot-2-inch guard that left opponents dazed and much of the nation captivated throughout the college basketball season. Fredette hopes that range can help convince at least one National Basketball Association team to make him a first-round draft pick in June.
You don’t average 28.5 points per game without immense repetition or finding ways to get shots when opposing coaches throw everything but the kitchen sink to limit your impact on the game.
For Fredette, that meant dribbling inside a studio built into his basement — sometimes with a work glove on his hand — or in the dark hallways of his church, where his buddies would pop out of doors to test his concentration.
He’d play basketball at a prison, hounded by the verbal abuse of the inmates — until his crossover dribble silenced them — to boost his mental toughness.
Nothing seems conventional about James Taft Fredette, whose name morphed into a verb and became synonymous with college basketball, a sport that rode his 30, 40, even 50-point outbursts into March.
“Didn’t expect it to explode that much but it did,” Fredette said. “People had fun with it, had fun with my name. People watched BYU basketball and it’s great for the whole BYU community and for our coaches and their recruiting process to be able to get marquee players to come to BYU.”
Nate Mink is a senior in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University.