Iowa sharpshooter CJ Fredrick is a Kentucky Wildcat, officially committing to the program after months of speculation that the former Covington Catholic standout was looking to play closer to home in 2021-22. The 6-foot-3 guard becomes the third player to transfer to Kentucky this offseason, joining West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe (signed in January) and Davidson transfer Kellan Grady (signed in March) to join the fold for the upcoming season.
But what does Fredrick’s commitment mean for the program, both immediately and in the long term? What kind of impact can he make for the Wildcats? Let’s jump right in.
One of the best shooters in college basketball
Over the course of the past two seasons, Fredrick has played in 52 total games for Iowa, shooting a combined 46.6% from three on 3.4 attempts per game and 178 attempts overall. This past season, he shot 47.4% from deep on 76 total attempts, raising his efficiency after knocking down 46.1% of his 3-pointers as a freshman on 102 attempts.
To put those numbers into perspective, Doron Lamb is the all-time leading 3-point shooter at Kentucky in terms of efficiency, knocking down 47.52% of threes on 303 attempts over the course of two seasons in Lexington. Cameron Mills is second on the list at 47.37% overall from deep in four seasons at Kentucky, followed by Olivier Sarr (46.15% on 26 attempts), Myron Anthony (44.83% on 29 attempts) and Travis Ford (44.5% on 427 attempts) to round out the top five.
Should Fredrick maintain his career shooting average, he will automatically step in and become one of the top-five best shooters in Kentucky basketball history. Should he match his shooting splits from 2020-21 (47.4% from three), he’d slide in at No. 2 overall in program history behind only Lamb, who would lead by only just .12%.
After a year where shooting was such a serious issue – Kentucky finished the season ranked 270th nationally in 3-point attempts per game (19.1) and 172nd in percentage (33.6%) – it certainly doesn’t hurt to add arguably the best shooter in college basketball.
Elite trio of shooters on the perimeter
Not only does Kentucky now have one standout shooter signed on for next season, they’ve got three. CJ Fredrick, Dontaie Allen and Kellan Grady, who shot 47.4%, 40%, and 38.2% from three this past season, respectively, on a combined 13.2 attempts from deep per contest, creates one of the most lethal shooting trios in college basketball.
With the lead guard position still in question – UK currently has zero point guards signed on for the 2021-22 season – Fredrick’s addition minimizes the need for a pure shooter at point. If John Calipari likes the fit with, say, Minnesota transfer Marcus Carr (averages 19.4 PPG, 4.9 APG and 4.0 RPG, but shoots just 38.5% from the field and 31.7% from three) or Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler (26.2% career 3-point shooter, but leads the SEC in assists at 7.4 per game and assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.68), it’s an easier risk to take knowing your standout facilitators have shooters around them. Carr is widely considered the top available transfer on the board, while Wheeler is one of the best playmakers in college basketball, either could be added without worrying about shooting.
Or if you want to add another standout shooter at the point guard position – 2021 five-star point guard TyTy Washington shot 48% overall, 41% from three and 88% from the free throw line as a senior this past season, for instance – the more the merrier. Point being, you now have your options and can get creative with how you fill the multiple vacancies at the lead guard position. Having three knockdown shooters on the perimeter creates that flexibility.
Another fan favorite
It’s no secret the Big Blue Nation loves seeing local standouts play for Kentucky, and Fredrick certainly fits that criteria. A native of Cincinnati, OH – just over an hour away from Lexington as it is – the newest Wildcat was a star at Park Hills, KY’s Covington Catholic from 2015-18, scoring 1,651 career points for the Colonels. As a senior, Fredrick led CovCath to its second state championship in school history, averaging 27.8 points per game on 63% shooting in the Sweet 16 en route to tournament MVP honors.
Fredrick was ultimately named the 2018 Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year in Kentucky.
Perfect role player
The best part of Fredrick’s addition? He fits like a glove in Kentucky’s system. This isn’t a player that needs the ball in his hands to find success or make a serious impact. The Iowa transfer can put the ball on the floor and create shots for himself and others if need be – he’s managed 121 career assists and just 42 total turnovers – but he’s also constantly moving without the ball, coming off screens and running the baseline looking for open catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Even further, KSR learned early in the recruiting process that Fredrick wasn’t demanding playing time or a specific number of shots each game during his search for a new program. If Calipari wants him to start and be the primary scoring threat alongside Grady, he’s certainly interested in and capable of doing that. If UK adds two major pieces at point guard and wants to roll with a three-guard lineup, he’s comfortable coming off the bench as the 6th man.
Fredrick is the ultimate plug-and-play player. Need to put the weight on his shoulders as a key scoring option in the starting lineup? Sure. Sharpshooter off the bench? Absolutely.
Among the reasons for concern regarding his addition – there certainly aren’t many – is Fredrick’s health. As a freshman, the former Covington Catholic standout missed six games due to injury, along with sitting out the second halves of two other matchups. And then this season, he missed four full games and missed time in three others as he battled through a lower leg injury.
At the end of the season, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told reporters that Fredrick’s leg injury would not require offseason surgery and he is expected to be completely healthy by the start of the 2021-22 season.
No serious, long-term injuries of note, but small, nagging injuries that have kept him off the floor at times. Something to keep an eye on.
Three years of eligibility
Fredrick made this move because he wanted to be closer to friends and family to close out his college basketball career, which could be three more years if he chooses to stay that long.
With the NCAA granting an additional season of eligibility for those competing in winter sports during the 2020-21 athletic season, along with the one-time immediate transfer rule passing for the upcoming season, Fredrick will be able to stay at Kentucky from 2021 through 2024 if the NBA Draft doesn’t come calling before then.
Adding an incoming junior with two full years of college basketball experience is certainly a plus, specifically from a veteran leadership standpoint. Factor in that you could still get three more years with a player who has already racked up 52 total starts, 1383 minutes, 459 points, 83 made 3-pointers, and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.88 at the collegiate level – for a standout program like Iowa, no less – it’s hard not to get excited about this move.
Fredrick is a player.