By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
Jimmer Fredette is happy. He’s playing professional basketball for a Greek team, he’s getting paid handsomely, and he’s seeing a part of the world he might never have seen otherwise.
“It’s been good,” he told The Chronicle. “Athens is a cool city. There’s lots to do. And the food is very good.”
The Glens Falls native just turned 31. After years of kicking around the NBA, the NBA Development League and the Chinese Basketball Association, he’s found his groove in Greece.
Jimmer is averaging 13.7 points a game for Panathinaikos, which is in first place in the Greek League and sixth place in the Euroleague. It’s regarded as the second-best league in the world behind the NBA.
His wife Whitney and their children, Wesley and Taft, are there now with him.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “It’s a really high level of basketball, great competition, great arenas. You’ve got to play hard every night. Every team is very evenly matched. And we play in amazing cities that I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit.”
His favorites so far? “I’d say Milan, Tel Aviv and Barcelona,” said Fredette. “Those are three really cool cities.”
Higher level of play than China
“The level of play in the Euroleague is definitely higher than in China,” he said. “Here, all of the players are very, very good. In China, players are big and athletic, but there tend to be specialists: defensive specialists, three-point shooters, rebounders. Here, every player is well-rounded.”
His coach is Rick Pitino, who led Kentucky (1996) and Louisville (2013) to NCAA championships but was later disgraced and fired over alleged recruiting violations.
“He’s a good motivator,” Jimmer said of Pitino. “He’s a guy who is going to be on you and make sure that you’re playing as hard as you can and trying to do things each and every night that are going to help the team win. He’s tough on you in the film sessions to make sure you’re prepared and ready for the game.
“He knows that if I can help this team get to where they want to be that I have to play well and be a big part of that. Our film sessions are by far the toughest I’ve ever been through.”
Earlier this season, Pitino said, “I am so proud of Jimmer Fredette. He’s been knocked all his life about defense and his defense in the third quarter won us the game.”
Jimmer said, “There’s a lot more practice here. We’re practicing every day and we practice pretty hard and get after it. It’s a different type of preparation for the game, it’s a different type of grind than it was in China or in the NBA where you play a lot more games and not practice as much. We only play one Euroleague game a week usually, and then we play one Greek League game a week.”
‘NBA not my focus right now’
Does he still want to play in the NBA?
“The NBA is really not my focus at this point,” Jimmer said. “Right now, I’m not exactly sure how much longer I’ll be playing. What I’m trying to do is enjoy the time that I have.
“Obviously I’ve had a really awesome career up to this point, playing nine years professionally. I’ve made some great money and I’ve played some great games in some great leagues. I’m not really focusing on getting back to the NBA.
“I’m taking it in stride and whatever opportunity comes, is going to come. That’s not the sole goal right now. Mostly the goal is to try to find whatever spot fits for me and for my family. We’ll see what happens. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
His deal with Panathinaikos is for two years, with the second year his option. He said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll return. Reports out of Greece say Jimmer’s two-year deal is worth $3.5-million before taxes.
“I don’t have to decide until well after the season,” which runs until June, he said.
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