BYU star increased stock at Chicago camp
In somewhat of a surprise, college basketball's player of the year has really impressed the pros.
And it's only surprising because Brigham Young guard Jimmer Fredette has often been referred to as little more than a volume shooter (a la Memphis' O.J. Mayo) who lacks athleticism. One respected NBA columnist even picked the NCAA's leading scorer and most electrifying player to drop to near the bottom of the first round.
"That's absurd, and makes me question that writer's intent," one irritated camp insider said of the prediction.
Instead, Fredette has tested well athletically, with his knack for creating his own shot among the best at the pre-draft camp in Chicago. Expect Fredette to be drafted in the 12-16 range of the first round, although some think with more individual workouts like his first, he could move up a few spots.
"Like everyone after the top two picks, he's a bit of a gamble," the insider said. "But man, for anyone looking for instant offense off the bench, he could be a big hit right away."
Fredette was measured at a shade over 6-foot-2 and weighs 195 pounds. He averaged 28.9 points per game at BYU.
Others who improved their stock with strong showings include Washington State swingman Klay Thompson, Texas swingman Jordan Hamilton and center Jeremy Tyler, who played high school ball in San Diego then professionally overseas.
Tyler actually left high school after his junior year and it turned out to be a disaster. First, he went to Israel, where he signed a one-year deal for $140,000. He abruptly quit and returned home after 10 games. He then signed to play in Japan, averaging 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in 33 games.
But Tyler, who is 6-11, tested well in Chicago and may have played his way into the first round.
Meanwhile, Thompson displayed the same nice shooting stroke he possessed in college and turned out to be a better-than-expected athlete. He has a certain edge to his game that scouts love. He also has the height (6-7) and mindset to play shooting guard in the NBA, having drawn comparisons to Houston's Kevin Martin.
As for Hamilton, there were questions about his toughness, but he pretty much put those to rest in his workout. Now, the word "soft" has been replaced with "smooth" when describing the 6-7 scorer.
Not to be forgotten is Kentucky's Enes Kanter, who lived up to expectations with his positive attitude and rugged workout.
Kanter is a 6-11 center from Turkey. He didn't play during his freshman season because of eligibility issues, yet earned high praise from scouts who saw him a year ago in international competition.
He will definitely be selected in the top 10, and likely within the top five. In fact, the only reason Kanter may not go in the top three is because of the vibe insiders are getting from Kanter himself.
Word is he would prefer to play for Washington, which owns the sixth overall pick. Utah is another rumored landing spot, and the Jazz pick third. But reports say Kanter doesn't want to play there (or in Toronto, which owns the fifth pick).
Connecticut guard Kemba Walker interviewed with Detroit, Phoenix and Houston while in Chicago and said he is likely to conduct individual workouts with six or seven teams in all. The Pistons own the eighth pick, the Suns own the 13th and the Rockets the 14th.
"I thought it went very well," Walker told DraftExpress.com of the interviews. "They just ask you personal stuff — about your family and upbringing, how you would fit in with their team, stuff like that."
Walker said he's hearing he will be drafted in the 3-8 range.
"I have no preference; I just want to hear my name called," he said, smiling. "I think I can come into any (situation) and play right away and hopefully, do big things."
The 6-1 guard is fresh off an NCAA championship with the Huskies and says his greatest asset is an ability to find ways to win. "I've won at every level I've played," he said.
As for his size, Walker shrugs it off as a non-issue. He also says teams have told him they have faith he can play point guard in the NBA.
"There are plenty of small guys in the NBA now who do a great job," he said. "I don't see why I can't."
Finally, time again for my two cents . . .
This testing of athleticism makes my blood boil. I don't care if Kemba Walker can't jump as high or run as fast or possess the reach of Brandon Knight (all hypothetical, by the way).
Can Walker play BASKETBALL better than Knight? That's all I care about, and I really want to scream it over and over again as I watch all these strength-and-conditioning types get in the way of a great pickup game.
Roll the ball out, let 'em play, and see who's the best. And quit trying to be the friggin' NFL.
OK, I feel better now. A little.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO