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Fredette, other rookies gear up for exhibition game

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PROVO, Utah -- Perhaps it is fitting that Thursday's exhibition game between many of the top NBA rookies is being played on a college campus.

Players from former Brigham Young star Jimmer Fredette to UCLA standout Malcolm Lee say they're still living the college life, what with no NBA paychecks because of the NBA lockout.

"People always ask me, 'How's the NBA life?'" said Lee, a second-round pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. "I basically tell them, 'I'm a college student, the same way I left UCLA.'"

Of course, some are luckier than others.

Former UConn star Kemba Walker showed up for Wednesday's practice at BYU's Marriott Center wearing his Under Armour gear, complete with the new line of sneakers.

Fredette drove there in a navy blue Hyundai Genesis, a loaner car from a local dealership, and was trying out a pair of shiny white Spaulding basketball shoes.

A few had NBA-logo socks they picked up during pre-draft workouts.

But for the most part, all were players caught between college careers and the step up to the next level.

That made Jimmer's All-Star Game a rare opportunity to engage in some real competition in a summer where they've had to find their own.

"You have to enjoy moments like this," said 6-foot-9 Bismack Biyombo, who was picked seventh overall by the Charlotte Bobcats. "A lot of us were drafted at the same time. It's really fun. I'm excited to enjoy this moment and game with those guys."

No one is more eager to get the game on than Fredette, college basketball's player of the year who was drafted No. 10 overall by Sacramento.

"I'm extremely excited to be able to play in front of the [BYU] fans one more time," said Fredette, who led the nation in scoring last season. "It's going to be a great competition. That's the big thing. We get a couple of days to play in front of great competition, and that's important during the lockout when you're just trying to find ways to stay in shape."

BYU coach Dave Rose is coaching Fredette's team for the exhibition and San Diego State counterpart Steve Fisher is directing a team captained by Kawhi Leonard, the No. 15 overall pick by San Antonio.

"Dave and I both said we'd like to keep the two that are ours," said Fisher, who coached Leonard for two seasons in San Diego. "But what a collection of talent."

He was still amazed by the 6-7 Leonard, whom he called a workaholic.

"When you say gym rat, that's him in bold letters and underlined as many times as you can," Fisher added. "He's done a lot of stuff when nobody's been watching. He's put on muscle and been religious with his commitment to getting stronger. He's going to be a really good pro."

Leonard said he has no regrets about leaving school early, even with the labor uncertainty.

"If there's not a season, next year there will be," Leonard said.

Walker felt the same way, but acknowledged it was frustrating.

"I'm definitely bummed," Walker said of the lockout.

All the players said they had some type of insurance policy as a safeguard should they get injured.

But few had contingency plans should the lockout drag on, other than continuing to work out individually or in groups.

Lee said he relies on a per diem from his agent to get him through until the lockout ends.

Fredette has earned money through clinics, speaking engagements and has some deals pending. And like the other players, he will receive a nice appearance fee for Thursday's exhibition game, which is also a fundraiser for the Vestibular Awareness Foundation.

No player said he has splurged on any big purchases, though Fredette took the plunge Aug. 26 and proposed to his longtime girlfriend.

Otherwise, they say they have done the best they can, working out on their own, with old college teams or at academies like the Impact League in Las Vegas.

Despite the lack of organized workouts, Rose said he was impressed after Wednesday's practice.

"The first part of practice was guys getting to know each other a little bit," he said, noting the same was true early in the scrimmage. "Then they really competed well."

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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