Glens Falls, NY always has Fredette fever

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. -- It probably would be some sort of NCAA violation, so this small working-class town about an hour north of Albany will have to wait. But surely, someday soon, there will be additions to the numerous "Welcome to Glens Falls" signs -- words the local citizenry utters frequently, with reverence: "Home of Jimmer Fredette."

"Jimmer is the biggest thing we've ever had here. He's beloved," said Doug Kenyon, retired athletic director for Glens Falls High School and now tournament director of the state boys basketball championships.

So beloved, in fact, that Fredette has served as a sort of one-man economic stimulus package for Glens Falls, a town that is showing its age but is proud of having hosted the state tournament since 1978 and prouder still of its favorite son.

Fredette, the BYU star from Glens Falls High School (Class of 2007), is the leading scorer in the nation for the Cougars, who are seeded third in the Southeast Regional and continue NCAA Tournament play Saturday in Denver. A couple of thousand miles and two time zones away, they'll be watching closely. They've been doing so all season.

Local bars and restaurants with satellite TV hookups fill up for BYU home games. BYU banners hang from many of them. When Jimmer plays, social calendars are rearranged and business booms.

Kenyon recently flew to Provo, Utah -- along with Fredette's former high school coach, Tony Hammel, and assistant Dave Casey -- to watch Fredette on Senior Day. "We've known him since he was a pudgy little kid, a ballboy for the high school, making set shots at halftime when he was 5 years old," Kenyon said. "He was something special by the time he was 13 or 14. He was focused but never obsessed. He had fun. That's what's best about Jimmer."

It was easy to find people with stories to tell about Fredette on Friday at Glens Falls Civic Center. Mention "Jimmer" and perfect strangers pull out cell phones with photos of themselves with Fredette or call over friends to relate an anecdote.

Their favorite topic was Dec. 8, 2010, a day that will gloriously live forever in Glens Falls. Fredette and BYU played Vermont that day at the Civic Center. The building with the ice rink under the wooden basketball court was filled way beyond its capacity of 4,800. Crowd estimates ranged from 6,300 to 6,700.

It was one of those events in which years from now, people will say they were there.

"I was," Warren County sheriff Bud York said. "I've never seen that many people here. Chairs around the court. Three or four deep, standing room only. This whole county loves him. People from the rival high schools were here to cheer for him."

The Jimmer Jam sessions continue. On Thursday, the bars were packed for BYU's NCAA opener.

It was St. Jimmer's Day.

Attendance for Saturday night's session at the Civic Center is in peril because BYU faces Gonzaga at 7:45 p.m. "Could be a problem," Kenyon said. "But we've got big screens on the second level and people can stop by."

Including some workers who might have other responsibilities. "I'll be sneaking out to watch," usher Jim Polunci said with a wink that indicated his bosses will completely understand.

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