In his 80 years, Joe Dean has seen a few pretty fair country basketball players come and go. Dean was a star himself at LSU with Hall of Famer Bob Pettit before a long career as a TV analyst. As a vice president of Converse basketball shoes for 28 years, Dean signed a few good players, including Julius Erving, Larry Bird and Earvin Johnson, and he was LSU's athletic director when Shaquille O'Neal was shattering backboards there.
With Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette in Cajun Country for Thursday night's NCAA Southeast Regional semifinal against Florida, Dean was suitably impressed with the nation's leading scorer. "He's a pure shooter, great form and rotation on the ball," Dean said Thursday. "You better pick him up at the [midcourt] line. If you don't, he'll knock it down."
But while Fredette's emergence has evoked comparisons to LSU legend Pete Maravich for some, well, that's where Dean politely but firmly sets the record straight. "Maravich was the greatest individual player I ever saw," he said.
Start with the numbers. Fredette was averaging 28.8 points per game entering Thursday nightand had totaled 2,567 points in 138 games, an 18.6 average. Freshmen were ineligible to play varsity when Maravich was at LSU, so his career spanned three seasons from 1967-70. He scored 3,667 points, still the all-time record, in 83 games for a 44.2 average.
In an era before the three-point shot, Maravich had 28 games in which he scored at least 50 points, including four games in which he topped 60 -- with a high of 69 on Feb. 7, 1970, against Alabama. Fredette's high is the 52 points he scored against New Mexico two weeks ago in the Mountain West Tournament.
"If Pete was playing today with the three-point line, his average would be 54 points a game," Dean said. "The difference is that Maravich was a 'Fancy Dan.' He did things with the ball that nobody had ever seen, behind-the-back passes and passes between his legs.
"He wasn't as good a shooter as the kid from BYU. Pete was a scorer. He'd drive and shoot. His ballhandling was the big difference. It's not even close. He should have been with the Globetrotters."
Fredette has heard the comparisons and knows something about the history. "I've watched some documentaries on him and some things he did in practice, and he was a great story," he said. "He really kind of revolutionized the game."
BYU coach Dave Rose, who was in grade school when Maravich played at LSU, said, "I think the common denominator between Pete Maravich and Jimmer is they're relentless. If they have 40, they want another basket. In Jimmer's case, it has nothing to do with points. He's just trying to help his team win games."
On that score, Fredette is way ahead of Maravich. LSU was a .500 team until Maravich's senior year, when the Tigers went 22-10 and went to the NIT in New York, where he was held to 20 points by Marquette's Dean Meminger in a semifinal loss. U.S. Olympic coach Hank Iba snubbed Maravich for the 1968 Olympic team because he dominated the ball.
So Maravich had his critics. But what a show he put on. Dean remembers a game at Georgia that LSU was winning. As the final seconds ticked off, Maravich began dribbling away from his teammates toward midcourt before turning and letting fly with a hook shot. "It hit nothing but the bottom of the net," Dean said.
"This kid from BYU is fun to watch, but he's nowhere near what Maravich was with the fancy stuff. Every game was a show."