Cinderellas After Midnight

By Alvin Halimwidjaya

Jimmer Fredette is one of the many March Madness heroes that later flamed out (Courtesy of Twitter).

Every year March Madness finds a few heroes. Whether it be the key cog on a championship team, the beating heart of an underdog or, if you’re lucky enough, both at the same time. Players like Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony were thrust into the national spotlight, while old-school studs like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird gave NBA fans a taste of what was to come in their NCAA tournaments. However, for every college star that continued to greater heights in the NBA, there are those whose fortunes petered out, leaving them to fade into the background.

Players from blue-blood programs and Cinderella teams alike have come to the NBA and discovered that, no matter their standing in the NCAA, the pros were not patient. The NBA is a fast-moving league, and no one can skate by in the pros on their reputation in college; players are often left behind in the dust, from Doug McDermott to Shabazz Napier.

A good example is the 2015 University of Wisconsin team that got all the way to the national championship game. The core of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were fan favorites in college basketball circles; now, Frank the Tank is more of a sedan, as he sits on the bench of a pretty awful Hornets team. Dekker brings a spark off the bench for the Clippers, but his current production is a far cry from his glory days as the go-to Badger in crunch time; meanwhile, Hayes and Koenig are now both in the G-League, fighting for a chance to prove their worth in the big leagues.

However, there is no better case than that of the Cinderella god himself, Jimmer Fredette. The BYU graduate earned a reputation for dropping a preponderance of points on any poor program unlucky enough to face him. Averaging 29 points per game in his senior year, he was unanimously named the National Player of the Year after an absolutely torrid 2010-2011 campaign. Delivering BYU a Sweet Sixteen berth, Fredette was on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the NCAA world; when your name becomes a verb for getting buckets, that’s when you know you’ve made it.

However, since coming into the NBA Jimmer found that the clock had already struck midnight. After three uneventful years with the Sacramento Kings, he bounced around the league before settling in the Chinese Basketball Association. Away from the American spotlight, he’s found his groove again with the Shanghai Sharks, averaging 37.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.6 steals over 41 games in the 2016-17 season. However, torching the CBA and getting into fights with Stephon Marbury doesn’t quite have the same allure of finding success in the NBA.

With March Madness in full swing, there are plenty of people to get behind, from shot-blocking menace Tyler Davis of Texas A&M to anyone from the UMBC Retrievers, college players tend to bring their best to the NCAA Tournament. However, as fans we need to properly appreciate these heroes, because no shining moment lasts forever.