Bob Ryan

Comparing notes on a hidden treasure

Take a look for yourself: Is Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette (above) the next Mark Price? Or J.J. Redick? Someone else? Take a look for yourself: Is Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette (above) the next Mark Price? Or J.J. Redick? Someone else? (Isaac Brekken/Associated Press)
By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / January 30, 2011

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You’re raving to your friend about some player you’ve just seen.

“Yeah, well, OK,’’ your friend says. “Just tell me: Who’s he remind you of?’’ Or, “Who’s he like?’’

I bring this up because some of us have seen Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette play, and some haven’t. His big showcase game thus far was last Wednesday night’s BYU-San Diego State affair, which began at 10:15 p.m. EST and was on the CBS College Sports network. They say it reaches 40 million homes, but half the people in question don’t even know they have it, and 90 percent of the other half don’t know how to find it. And let’s face it: If you tell someone to watch a college basketball game, he or she assumes it’s on ESPN.

So the task falls upon those who have seen college basketball’s most exciting and entertaining player to explain him to those who haven’t. He’s 6 feet 2 inches and he’s Caucasian, so right away you’re referencing 6-3-and-under Caucasian guards of the past (or perhaps even the present) who were or are flat-out, board-certified scoring machines on a college level.

Some people say Mark Price, and there sure is a similarity when he steps to the foul line because, like Price, Jimmer Fredette is Mr. Automatic once he gets there.

But Price was an efficient scorer, not remotely flashy. This new guy is an old-fashioned, well-rounded, maniacal scorer who you’d like to think would do anything to get the ball in the basket up to and including bouncing it in off his head.

He can shoot from ridiculous distances, and do so with a hand in his face. He can cross-over dribble his way into getting off his own shot. He has a nice midrange game (that otherwise being a true lost art). He even has those Rajon Rondo-like floaters in the lane.

Mark Price was a kill-you-softly kind of guy. Jimmer Fredette gets your attention as soon as he touches the basketball. So I reject the Mark Price comparison.

I could see someone throwing out the name “J.J. Redick.’’ If so, it would have to be the current Orlando Magic incarnation of J.J. Redick, who actually has broadened his game to include aggressive moves to the hoop. The Duke J.J. Redick, which more people identify with, was a stand-still jump shooter for the most part. So Jimmer is not J.J. Redick.

The comparison that makes the most sense to me is Scott Skiles, and again this would mean the collegiate Scott Skiles, the one who averaged 27.4 points during his senior year at Michigan State. Skiles had a similar offensive game, but he also had a distinct edge that prompted Georgetown mentor John Thompson to call time out during an NCAA Tournament game to caution his team against “riling up that white boy.’’ Scott Skiles never received a bigger tribute.

Jimmer appears to be tough enough, but I would doubt he’d come off very well in any physical confrontation with Skiles, who played 10 years of NBA basketball with an NFL safety’s mentality.

Still, Scott Skiles will serve as an appropriate Jimmer Fredette comparison until something better comes along.

Now, some people defy comparison. I believe firmly, for example, that Dennis Johnson was completely sui generis. No NBA person ever — ever! — says, “This kid reminds me of Dennis Johnson.’’

And 33 years after playing his final NBA game, has anyone come along who even remotely deserves to be compared, stylistically, to John Havlicek? The answer would be no. It was chic at the beginning of Dan Majerle’s career to make that comparison, but it didn’t take long to realize it just wasn’t valid.

Comparisons are OK as long as people recognize them for what they are. It’s fine and dandy to say that Milan Lucic at his best brings back memories of Cam Neely, but it’s a complete disservice to the former to expect him ever to be as good as the latter. But there’s nothing wrong with using Neely as a frame of reference when explaining to someone what the Lucic game can be all about when he’s playing well.

By no means must comparisons be made strictly on a racial basis. We may have Exhibit A right here. What is Danny Woodhead if not the answer to all Patriots prayers about replacing Kevin Faulk? You’d almost think Bill Belichick had filled out an order sheet. Now, will Woodhead be Faulk-like as long as Faulk was? That’s something we don’t know. But if you were explaining Woodhead to someone who had just returned from an around-the-world cruise, wouldn’t you simply say, “Well, he’s just like Kevin Faulk’’?

It’s all part of the fun of being a legit sports fan. Sometimes a guy calls to mind a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Kevin Durant is a good example. He certainly falls into a category of basketball player I call “Easy Scorers.’’ With these people, the ball just flows out of their hands, the way it does for some pitchers. When I look at Durant, I see a cross between Bob McAdoo and George “The Iceman’’ Gervin. But at 6-11, he’s bigger than both of them.

So I guess he’s the first Kevin Durant. And it may turn out that this kid at BYU is the first Jimmer Fredette.

That’s OK, too.

The important thing is that Jimmer Fredette has been put here for our viewing pleasure. We just need to figure out a way to get him on a channel where more than 12 of us can see him.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on He can be reached at