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Gators aware of how BYU gets its fill

By Jeff Latzke
Associated Press / March 18, 2010

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OKLAHOMA CITY — No offense, John Wall. Florida coach Billy Donovan believes his Gators are about to open the NCAA Tournament against someone who’s even more dangerous than Kentucky’s player of the year candidate.

High-scoring BYU guard Jimmer Fredette is 12th in the nation in scoring, and only four players in the tournament average more than his 21.7 points. He set a school record with 49 against Arizona earlier this season.

“Being in the SEC, we had a chance to see a lot of great point guards in John Wall and Devan Downey, and I don’t think either one of those two guys impact the college game like Fredette does,’’ Donovan said yesterday after Florida, the No. 10 seed in the West Regional, practiced. “He has a totally different effect level on the game.

“Those guys can’t get 50 in a college game like this guy can. They can’t get to the free throw line 24 times in a game, so this guy to me really — Fredette — is one of the best-kept secrets in college basketball.’’

Donovan’s Gators are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since winning national championships in 2006 and 2007, and will try to shut down Fredette today.

Fredette is coming off games of 45 and 30 points in the Mountain West Conference tournament and he’s scored at least 25 10 times this season. By comparison, Wall has scored 25 points only once during a sensational freshman season that has him alongside Ohio State’s Evan Turner in the discussion for national player of the year.

The seventh-seeded Cougars are the second-highest scoring team in the nation (83 ppg), and rank first in free throw shooting (78.6 percent) and third in 3-point percentage (42 percent). Fredette also averages a team-best 4.7 assists.

“What makes them unique and him so special in my opinion is he does it in a lot of different ways,’’ Donovan said. “He shoots threes, he gets fouled, he passes it, and then they have other people around that are really, really good players.’’

Fredette was raised in upstate New York getting drilled in the game by his older brother, then followed his sister westward to BYU. He idolizes former Jazz point guard John Stockton and spoke about getting used to playing in front of hostile crowds while playing against inmates at a prison.

“The biggest thing is the variety of shots that he has that he’s really good at,’’ BYU coach Dave Rose said. “He can shoot off the dribble. He can shoot runners off balance. He can get to free throw line. He plays at a pace that is really hard to guard.’’

His challenge now: helping the Cougars end a streak of seven first-round losses. Their last win came in 1993, the last time BYU received such a high seed.

“We know that this program hasn’t won for a little while here in this tournament but our coach was telling us before that all of those other teams in the past have nothing to do with us,’’ said Fredette, a 44 percent shooter from 3-point range. “We were pretty young when those things were going on.

“It’s a new team, it’s a new time and we need to not think about it at all.’’

The Gators are taking a similar approach after missing the tournament each of the past two seasons, following the departure of Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford as lottery picks in the NBA draft. Donovan believes the recruits that arrived after those back-to-back championships may have come in with a sense that they were entitled to their own NCAA trophy.

“When those kids stepped on campus, the confetti was still falling when they got there and it was almost like they won the national championship and they were a part of it,’’ Donovan said.

“It was almost like they came to Florida and they didn’t even have to get up to bat. They started off on third base. And they didn’t get to third base. We kind of had to start over.’’

This season, he’s seen his players return to the type of commitment and hard work necessary to reach the postseason.

“I know for my first time, I’m stoked. This is what college basketball is all about,’’ said junior Chandler Parsons, part of the recruiting class that followed the 2007 title. “We’re happy and stuff for being here and it’s a great opportunity . . . but we’re trying to make noise at this tournament. We’re not just trying to play one game.’’