Earlier this month, it was reported that San Antonio Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard agreed to be the captain against Jimmer Fredette’s team. On Thursday night, the exhibition game organized by the former BYU star Fredette was fulfilled, and it was a success.
They didn’t disappoint the 11,124 fans who turned out for a high-scoring ball game that featured so of the top rookies of the 2011 draft class.
In the end, the team captained by former San Diego State star Leonard and coached by the Aztecs’ Steve Fisher defeated Team Fredette, 140-126.
“I always knew Jimmer’s fans were crazy, but this is special,” said former UConn star Kemba Walker, who scored 23 points for Team Leonard. “I had a great time out here and could tell how much this city loves him. Credit to Jimmer.”
Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick Tobias Harris and Leonard, drafted 15th overall by San Antonio, led the winners with 24 points each.
While Nolan Smith, the 21st overall pick for Portland, led Fredette’s team with 30 points and 13 assists.
Fredette had 27 points and 10 assists on 9-of-20 shooting, including a few patented stop-and-pop 3-pointers.
When it was over, he walked off to one final standing ovation.
Like the others, he didn’t know when he’d get a chance to suit up as a pro again, what with labor talks at a standstill and training camp and preseason games about to be canceled.
“This was a good measuring stick for us,” Fredette said of the exhibition.
“Now it is kind of a waiting game. You just work as hard as you can and stay in shape. … That’s pretty much all you can do. It will be a long offseason,” he said. “You have to try to get in game shape because when it does start, we’re going to go right into it.”
Also, Fredette got a taste of NBA talent as he saw a few shots in the lane swatted away by guys like the 6-9 Bismack Biyombo, the No. 7 overall pick of the Charlotte Bobcats and the highest-drafted player competing.
The game marked the professional debut for many top rookies stuck between college careers and the NBA.
Leonard, whose duels with Fredette the past two seasons raised the profile of the Mountain West Conference.
But like the others, Leonard showed he had been doing whatever it takes to be ready when, and if, the season ever starts.
He even showed up recently on consecutive mornings at the Aztecs’ practice facility in San Diego with two lights from home because the building was still dark in the offseason.
“It wasn’t like arena lighting, but it was enough for us to see the rim,” said Leonard, who has added about 15 pounds of muscle.
He, like the others, now were headed back home, to college campuses or private workout facilities, instead of NBA camps.