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Jimmer Fredette (foreground) and TJ Fredette (Source: TJ Fredette website)
Jimmer Fredette (foreground) and TJ Fredette (Source: TJ Fredette website)

For the Fredette brothers, hoop dreams and beat-driven songs

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This year one of the biggest names in college basketball is from the North Country.

"BYU is led by that guy, Jimmer Fredette," ESPN declared earlier this year. "The senior from Glens Falls is making it rain!"

Jimmer Fredette is a guard for third-ranked Brigham Young University and he's been wrecking defenses, averaging more than 30 points a game.

Fredette has become a hometown hero in Glens Falls. But tangled up in Jimmer's break-out year is the story of his brother TJ.

TJ Fredette is a rapper whose music tells the story of the Fredette family's life, on and off the basketball court. Brian Mann has our profile.

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TJ Fredette in his home studio

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Earlier this year, when BYU destroyed undefeated San Diego State, Jimmer Fredette knocked down 43 points.  And ESPN was quick to connect the dots between Jimmer and his older brother TJ who was watching from the sidelines.

"Jimmer Fredette’s brother TJ is a rapper.  One of his songs is “Amazing.”  Jimmer playing like the title track!"

 TJ's song begins with a declaration:  "Just like it’s Amazing!" 

This is the song the sports world is talking about.  It’s become sort of the anthem of BYU’s breakout year. 

It tells the story of these two brothers, Jimmer and TJ.  They grew up in Glens Falls, and both were searching for something bigger.

"So how could I let you settle for less?" TJ raps.  "And every time I knocked you down it was all just a test.  But you'd get back up.  You were only five years old, it was truly amazing." 

TJ’s song has drawn more than 200,000 hits on Youtube.  It was written and produced here in the basement of the Glens Falls rowhouse that TJ still shares with his parents.

 "Like I said it’s not much of a studio, but it’s what I made my music on in the past," TJ said.

 The staircase walls are literally covered, not an inch of empty space, with trophies, press clippings and photographs.

 "Yeah, this is our wall of fame, that’s what we call it.  It’s got the pictures of things that we’ve done.  Obviously my brother’s gotten a lot of press and I’ve gotten more press as of late."

 The Fredettes are having a brilliant year.  But their story isn’t all about 40 point games or breakout songs. 

 When they were kids, it was TJ who planned to be the NBA star.  He was the cutthroat athlete, tall and lean and fast.  But then he got sick.

 "When I was pretty young, I was actually in 8th grade, I started having severe panic attacks," he recalled.

"That kind of carried with me all the way through high school.  Panic attacks and little bouts of depression here and there." 

That was the experience that first started TJ writing lyrics and setting them to beats.

 "People trying to make the best of every situation that they’re handed," he sings. 

"But things aren’t always working out the way that we planned it.  And then as soon as it falls through, we can’t stand it.  Problems coming in faster than a plane landing."

TJ says he's mastered his panic attacks, and has no trouble singing and performing in public.  But he says those tough years left their mark.

"Usually you don’t see a kid that young having those types of problems.  I was very young when it started.  It was very difficult for me to go to school and things like that," he said.

"It’s one of those things when you go through something like that and you’re a writer, you have all this inspiration now and these feelings that you want to get off your chest."

With Jimmer’s growing fame on the court, TJ says he too has a real chance to grab success.  He says a lot more people are hearing his music, and there's talk of producing a real studio album.

But there’s one more twist in the Fredettes’ small-town Upstate New York story.  They’re a couple of white guys and they’re both Mormon.  

They used to practice basketball drills in the hallway of their father's Mormon church. 

TJ says all that made it harder for Jimmer to establish himself on the court — and it’s harder for him as a rapper.

"You know what, talent is talent.  Like when I make my music, don’t look at me.  Don’t look at my beliefs and things like that.  Don’t let that sway you look at my music." 

At times, the Fredette brothers’ story scans like an Eminem song, with its tough breaks and rust belt dreams. 

It’s still a long shot, but TJ is hoping for his own happy ending, hoping he’ll soon have a lot more press clippings to squeeze up there next to Jimmers on the family’s wall of fame.

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