CJ Fredrick expects success at Kentucky: ‘I think this team this year, everyone fits’

·4 min read

Pressure? No. Great expectations? Yes.

That’s how CJ Fredrick described his mindset heading into the 2021-22 season as a quasi-homegrown addition to Kentucky’s basketball team.

In looking to transfer from Iowa, Fredrick said UK Coach John Calipari sold him on being part of something special.

“I felt needed, and I felt like this was the place for me,” Fredrick said on a teleconference Tuesday.

Fredrick saw himself as part of Calipari’s emphasis on improved shooting being important in Kentucky rebounding from the 9-16 record this past season. Fredrick, who joins fellow transfer Kellan Grady (Davidson) and holdover Dontaie Allen, said Calipari spoke optimistically about next season.

“He had said how much he loved his roster already,” Fredrick said. “And he felt he was just missing a couple pieces to come in and complete the team. …”

Fredrick made more than 45 percent of his three-point shots in each of his two seasons playing for Iowa.

“We have a really complete team. You’ve got a lot of shooting with Dontaie, Kellan and me and others. You have two elite point guards. Athletes. Rebounders. It’s a complete team. … I think this team this year, everyone fits.”

Fredrick, whose initials stand for Charles Joseph, led Covington Catholic to the 2018 state championship. He lives in Cincinnati, so he does not perfectly fit the in-state product profile that many UK fans covet in players.

“I’ve kind of been all over,” he said before recalling living in Cincinnati crossing a bridge over the Ohio River to attend high school. Plus, he played on an Indiana-based AAU team.

“I’m from Cincinnati, and that’s always going to be where I’m from,” Fredrick said. “I love the city and everything about it.”

He described Covington Catholic as “a new family.” His grandparents lived near the school. “So, I just feel I have two great homes.”

Fredrick denied that the attention some UK fans pay to homegrown players translated into pressure. But he added that he’s no stranger to pressure.

As a boy, Fredrick was not seen as a basketball prodigy destined to play for Kentucky someday. Covington Catholic Coach Scott Ruthsatz said the rags-to-riches storyline might be an overstatement, but not a glaring exaggeration.

“It was a huge progression between his freshman and sophomore years,” Ruthsatz said. “Where he went from kind of not even starting on the freshman team to starting as a sophomore on the varsity.”

As a freshman, Fredrick was still maturing physically, said Ruthsatz, adding, “He didn’t do anything really extremely well. But you saw glimpses of it.”

When asked what led to the dramatic transformation, Ruthsatz cited genetics as one factor.

A grandfather, Charlie Fredrick, had a football scholarship at Notre Dame. A broken back in his freshman year ended his football playing days.

Uncle Joe Fredrick scored 1,058 points for Notre Dame in the late 1980s.

Fredrick’s father, Chuck, played basketball for Samford and then Rollins.

Aunt Maureen graduated as the career scoring leader for Greenhills High School’s girls’ basketball team.

Fredrick’s mother, Laura, was a marathon runner whose racing experience includes the Boston Marathon. “I always tell people CJ got his quickness from his mom,” Chuck said.

“I really wasn’t that good at basketball,” Fredrick said. “I kind of felt just pressure on myself. Like, wow, my family is really predominant in this area for basketball. I just felt I would be letting them down. … I just try to carry the family legacy as much as I can.”

Uncle Joe worked with CJ in that pivotal summer between his freshman and sophomore years of high school.

“From there on out, you could just see the accelerated progression in his game from year to year to the point he’s Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year,” Ruthsatz said. “And by his senior year he leads us to the state championship.”

In the summer leading into Fredrick’s senior year, Covington Catholic assistant coach Casey Sorrell worked him out every day.

Now, Ruthsatz uses Fredrick’s transformation as a teaching tool.

“We tell that story for all the young kids coming in that think about whatever expectations that they have,” the coach said. “This is the CJ Fredrick story.”Fredrick scored 1,651 points for Covington Catholic in a career that culminated in the 2018 state championship.

Kentucky did not recruit Fredrick. “At that time, they probably had their guys in line,” Ruthsatz said. ‘His whole goal was to get to a place where he could play (and) that he would be competitive in the mix right away.”

Fredrick signed with Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ coach, Fran McCaffery, had been an assistant coach at Notre Dame when Uncle Joe played for the Fighting Irish.

Fredrick averaged 10.2 points as a freshman and 7.5 points in a sophomore season in which he was hampered by plantar fasciitis.

“Now, his progression has now prolonged to ‘I just want to maximize my efforts or maximize my potential,’” Ruthsatz said in explaining the transfer to Kentucky. “And every kid dreams of being a pro. When you look at those two things, that fits perfectly with what Kentucky and Coach (John) Calipari do.”

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