IOWA CITY – CJ Fredrick will make his college basketball debut for Iowa in the season ahead, but there’s no way he’ll be overwhelmed by playing at Michigan State or Indiana or Wisconsin or Chicago’s United Center.
Last year, Fredrick led Covington Catholic to four wins in four days to capture the Kentucky boys’ basketball state championship at 23,000-seat Rupp Arena on the University of Kentucky’s campus. Kentucky and Delaware are the only states with one-class state tourneys.
Fredrick scored 111 points and was the Most Valuable Player in the tournament. He also was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year. That all made for quite a sendoff to Iowa.
“I still have some real good flashback memories of that,” Fredrick said Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “It was definitely an experience I’m never going to forget.”
The 6-foot-3 guard is almost sure to be an important player for the Hawkeyes as a redshirt freshman. Isaiah Moss is gone. Maishe Dailey is gone. Jordan Bohannon’s availability for the coming season became highly questionable following his hip surgery last month.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery was an assistant coach at Notre Dame when Fredrick’s uncle, Joe Fredrick, played there. McCaffery has repeatedly touted Joe’s nephew since the end of last season, dating before Moss and Dailey transferred out and it was known Bohannon would have surgery.
Fredrick redshirted last season with Iowa mostly because there was a glut of guards on the team. But he admitted “My body wasn’t ready at the time. I’ve gained some weight. … I’m taking care of my body. I just feel a lot better when I’m playing now.”
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Jarrett Van Meter wrote a book called “How Sweet It Is,” chronicling the 2015-16 season of three prominent Kentucky boys’ basketball teams. One was Covington Catholic, when Fredrick was a sophomore.
“CJ was already emerging as one of the best shooters in a state that prides itself in producing shooters,” Van Meter said last week.
“I remember when they played the preseason No. 1 team, Taylor County. That team was led by two Division I players, Quentin Goodin (now at Xavier) and David Sloan (now at Kansas State). Sloan was a junior, Goodin a senior. It was CJ’s coming-out party. He had 28 that game and his team won by 46 points. They blew the doors off the place.”
Fredrick made 107 3-pointers and shot 48.4 percent from that distance as a senior. So … wow. However, he lights up when talking about non-shooting aspects of his game. The following may read like bragging, but he is matter-of-fact without sounding boastful.
“This past year in practicing against a top-25 team for most of the season, I expanded my game,” Fredrick said. “I got a little better on my defense. I’m better with the ball. I’m a pretty good ballhandler, so I can play a little point. I think my overall game just got better.
“I’m a pretty good passer. I’m a good shooter. Good IQ. I can read the game, read how others are feeling.
“In high school my coach was big on taking charges and getting stops. Just gritty, tough defense. That’s kind of what I pride myself on. I play with a lot of energy. If someone needs a stop, I’m going to get the stop for them. Guard the other team’s best player, that’s kind of my mindset.”
It sounds like a whole bunch of what the Hawkeyes need next season if he can deliver.
Van Meter, now a high school basketball coach in Asheville, N.C., is a believer.
“CJ didn’t even start for his freshman team in high school,” Van Meter said.
“He’s not just a shooter. He’s got a lot of toughness. He’ll be able to take some punches and roll with them.”
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