DENVER – Bless Charles Barkley.
In his new CBS/TNT/Lizard-Lick-Towing-channel assignment to undo decades of the noxious Billy Packering of the NCAA tournament, he has approached his duties in his typically casual fashion – at one point identifying the primary Macy’s balloon of March Madness as “that Jimmer guy, out on the West Coast.”
That Jimmer guy. On the West Coast.
It’s good to hear at least one TV talking head who hasn’t quite caved in to the Jimmering of America, though the coup will undoubtedly be accomplished today should Brigham Young sneak by Gonzaga and into next week’s Sweet 16.
He is the Frednomenon of college basketball, this Jimmer Fredette – not simply because he’s throwing in nearly 29 points per game, but for how he throws them in: no-conscience 30-footers, wrong-footed sideways flicks, silly scoops, delicate banks.
That he’s managed to carve out his legend even as his games mostly have been exiled to the triple-digit channels on your dish is even more remarkable.
He’s a mythic figure. The Jimmer.
This year’s version of The ’Stache.
As the Cougars and Zags won here Thursday, the collision of the Jimmer and Adam Morrison cults was inevitable. What Fredette – sorry, The Jimmer – is now, Morrison and his mustache were at Gonzaga five years ago, though perhaps watered down just a bit as Morrison shared the hyperbole chamber with his across-the-country sidekick J.J. Redick of Duke.
So obvious are the parallels that Gonzaga coach Mark Few and BYU’s Dave Rose have chatted about the dynamics.
“Dave’s got it made dealing with Jimmer as opposed to dealing with Adam,” Few joked. “Jimmer is a nice, smooth, paved road. Adam is like something you travel in the Baja 500.”
He later felt the need to retrace his steps more seriously – “I’d coach Adam Morrison every year if I could” – but it was mostly unnecessary. If anything, Morrison seemed to enjoy his pebbles-in-a-pop-can approach to the coach-player relationship.
Well, he comes across in the gang-interview milieu as friendly, chatty, thoughtful and sincere. On the court, well, maybe not so much. Like Morrison, he is routinely despised by the hostiles, and perhaps not only because he can drop 40 on their fellows whenever he wants.
He shoots 45 percent from the field and barks for a foul on 100 percent of the shots he misses, stopping just short of insisting referees look at the Zapruder film to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. Twice on Thursday against Wofford he was stripped of the ball and instead of pursuing in defense, stayed on his knees in the backcourt, hoping to get a cherry-pick layup off a turnover or missed shot.
In the final minute and a half, when the Cougars needed to run clock on a double-digit lead, he took all of eight seconds to jack up a jump shot – and a former NCAA tournament hero on press row rolled his eyes and turned palms up in exasperation.
“This guy plays to win,” Rose insisted. “I think a lot of people think he plays to score.”
Well, it could be both.
Morrison’s desire to win was inextricably tied to being the guy taking the winning shot, too – though he celebrated just as hard if Erroll Knight or Pierre Marie Alitidor-Cespedes made it instead.
“They’re both once-in-a-lifetime players,” said Few. “Their drive, their confidence, their ability to score, how clutch they are. Jimmer reminds me so much of Adam. He hits closely guarded shots.”
They share another asset: good teammates.
“They’re the ones who get overlooked in this,” Few said. “Adam had remarkable teammates at Gonzaga, really talented ones, but ones that sacrificed their games for the betterment of the team and kept our chemistry great.
“Just watching BYU … they’ve made some sacrifices obviously.”
And not just shots. Sometimes in sanity. Few often used to compare the Morrison road show to touring with the Stones – not quite the analogy they’d use at BYU.
“But it can be pretty crazy,” said Fredette’s teammate, Logan Magnusson, “especially being a private LDS school because we have church members all over the country. After the TCU game we probably had 800-900 people waiting outside our bus wanting autographs, but we had to get on the bus and tell them, ‘Sorry.’”
But temporary insanity has its plusses, too.
“One thing Adam gave us was the ability to play with anybody in the country,” Few said. “I think Jimmer’s out of that same mold.”
We’ll know more Saturday – whether he’s really The Jimmer, or just that Jimmer guy.