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Former BYU basketball star Jimmer Fredette and his wife show ease of preserving memories on FamilySearch with stories at RootsTech

One of Jimmer’s most meaningful experiences came when he received an unexpected call from the late President Ballard

From his days at Brigham Young University to the NBA and playing internationally, Latter-day Saint Jimmer Fredette schooled many opponents on the basketball court.

But can he teach a beginner family history class at RootsTech?

“We didn’t actually teach it most of the time, we were being taught,” Fredette said with a laugh. “But I thought we did a fairly decent job of showing our memories and how people can use the FamilySearch app. It was a lot of fun to talk about the things that we have gone through in our lives — important things that we felt like would be great to share with the rest of the world.”

Sharing their life experiences demonstrated how doing family history can be fun, easy and meaningful, added Whitney Fredette, Jimmer’s wife.

“It was a neat opportunity to share memories as your family tree grows and expands. It’s a really cool concept,” she said, describing how simple it is to post a photo and include the story behind it using the Memory feature on the FamilySearch app. “It was a good learning experience to see how it actually works.”

Left, moderator Tyler Stahle talks with Jimmer Fredette and his wife Whitney during day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City Saturday, March 2, 2024. | Brian Nicholson

Close to 400 people attended the Fredettes’s session — “A Pro’s Take on Preserving Your Story with FamilySearch” — as part of RootsTech’s Family Discovery Day, the last of the three-day global family history conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Saturday, March 2.

As part of the event, Jimmer and Whitney Fredette, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, participated in a meet-and-greet with fans and Jimmer spent time shooting baskets and offering tips to young children on a basketball court set up in the RootsTech expo hall.

Preserving memories

Throughout his basketball career, Jimmer Fredette has been known for his dazzling, long-range 3-point shooting. Displaying a childhood photo of his older brother teaching him how to shoot a basketball, he told the story of how he learned to shoot from deep.

As a small boy, the native of Glens Falls, New York, often became frustrated when his older brother and friends frequently blocked his shots. He asked them to stop. They said no way, but agreed that if he was willing to shoot from a cement slab some distance away, it was a free shot. So Fredette practiced shooting from that cement slab every day until he could do it.

“At that point, when I got into the game, I was a weapon,” he said. “I was making it every time and they couldn’t block my shot. Everyone wanted me on their team after that.”

Jimmer Fredette offers the ball to Greyson Jewell, 5 from Payson, Utah, during a shoot around activity as part of day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City Saturday, March 2, 2024. | Brian Nicholson

Another photo showed Whitney Fredette in her BYU cheerleading outfit. As a young girl, her dream was to be a BYU cheerleader. It helped that her father was an avid BYU fan who sang the fight song every morning and named the family dog, “Cougar.”

Her aspirations were almost derailed when she wasn’t immediately accepted to the school, but retook the ACT test to improve her score. She came to BYU for cheer tryouts, first stopping at the admissions office where she learned there had been a cancellation. She presented her new test score and was accepted on the spot. Whitney Fredette then rushed to cheer tryouts where she was one of two girls to make the squad out of 181 who tried out.

To celebrate, Whitney Fredette’s father took her to eat at BYU’s Legends Grille, where he pointed out a rising star on the BYU basketball team.

“That kid right there, that’s Jimmer Fredette. That kid is going to be the best player BYU has ever seen,” her father said.

“I was like, ‘Don’t care, I just made the cheer squad,’” she said. “But I remember it vividly because his name was so bizarre. Jimmer? What name is that? Who is this guy?”

Prompted by moderator Tyler Stahle in an interview-style format, Jimmer and Whitney Fredette went on to tell more personal life stories.

With photos on Family Search of his early basketball days, Jimmer Fredette and his wife Whitney chat with emcee Tyler Stahle during day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City Saturday, March 2, 2024. | Brian Nicholson

He told what was it was like to experience “Jimmermania” on the Marriott Center court after he scored 43 points to help No. 9 BYU defeat No. 4 San Diego State, 71-58, on Jan. 26, 2011, leading to BYU’s run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament and being named the College Player of the Year. “My life changed overnight at that point,” he said.

The story of how Jimmer and Whitney met, dated and were married, followed later by how Jimmer traveled home from China to be present when Whitney delivered the couple’s first child.

The transition from playing in college to playing in the NBA, and how in his very first game, the late Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant switched with a teammate so he could guard Jimmer, put his forearm into his chest and say, “Welcome to the league.”

| FamilySearch

“I was like, ‘Thanks, Kobe,’” Jimmer Fredette said. “Just an unbelievable experience, something I had dreamed about when I was a kid. To make it to that goal and feel that moment, that was special, for sure.”

Following each story, a screen showed how the Fredettes preserved each memory using the FamilySeach Memory tool.

“There is so much work to be done,” said Jimmer, who has participated in family history activities with his ward’s young men as a priest quorum advisor. “Family history work is something we need to continue to get better at, and it’s fun to learn about your ancestors and where they come from. I think it’s going to be fun as we dig into it and find these cool, unique stories.”

Jimmer Fredette offers the ball to Mark Gonzales of Saratoga Springs, Utah, during a shoot around activity as part of day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City Saturday, March 2, 2024. | Brian Nicholson

Special connection to President Ballard

At the end of the presentation, FamilySearch surprised Jimmer Fredette with some family history findings, including that fact that he is a ninth cousin, twice removed, of the late President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“That’s incredible,” Jimmer said. “He’s one of my favorite Apostles of all time.”

Before leaving BYU for the NBA, Fredette said he and his parents were invited to meet with President Ballard in his office at Church headquarters, where President Ballard encouraged him as he took that next step in his career.

Several months later, Jimmer was struggling in his first NBA season when he received a voice message from President Ballard, once again offering support if he needed anything. Jimmer returned the phone call and the Apostle listened patiently to the young player’s problems. He asked if Fredette was reading his scriptures, specifically the Book of Mormon, on daily basis. He was not.

From left, Whitney and Jimmer Fredette, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, a General Authority Seventy, take part in a standing ovation following Kristin Chenoweth’s performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night” during day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2024.
From left, Whitney and Jimmer Fredette, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, a General Authority Seventy, take part in a standing ovation following Kristin Chenoweth’s performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night” during day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2024. | Brian Nicholson

“He said, ‘I promise you that if you read the Book of Mormon from now until the end of the season, that things will change in your life,’” Jimmer said.

Fredette accepted the invitation. His basketball situation didn’t change, but his perspective and outlook improved dramatically.

“Everything changed in my life. I was feeling much better. I was much more happy. I was more in tune with the Spirit,” he said. “The Prophet and Apostles are truly inspired. He didn’t need to call me that day, but for some reason, he felt inspired to call me. It literally changed my life.”

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What people learned

Seated in the second row, Timothy Johnson, of Farmington, Utah, attended the session with his grandson, Josiah Vaughan, and said the class was “beautiful” and was touched by his experience with President Ballard, who was honored with a video presentation on Family Discovery Day. He liked how easy it is to upload a photo and add a quick story — “Not your whole life,” he said.

Dressed in a No. 32 BYU T-shirt and holding her autographed poster, Melissa Burton admitted she was a little “Geeked out” to meet Jimmer and Whitney Fredette. She appreciated hearing their stories in person and seeing how they can be saved on FamilySearch.

“FamilySearch isn’t just for people who have passed away, for ancestors who are dead. It’s also for us — now — to share our current stories so that our family can have them,” she said. “It was really fun to see how that can be done with their stories.”

Jimmer Fredette offers all the participants a high five as they leave the court following a shoot around activity during day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City Saturday, March 2, 2024. | Brian Nicholson
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