A diamond in the rough?
At 6-10, Jared Jeffries’ biggest asset is his versatility. While some may question if his 220 lbs. frame is strong enough to endure the rigors in the paint, few can deny his overall talent and knowledge of the game. His defensive and rebounding skills have usually been underrated. Yes, Jeffries struggled in the championship game against the bruising front line of the Terrapins, but let’s not forget his 24 point and 15 rebound performance against Duke’s roster full of NBA talents, and the long list of stuffing the stat sheet outings against stronger and more physical teams like Illinois, Oklahoma, and Michigan State.
Few players who stand 6-10 can do what Jeffries does. JJ runs the floor well, has great court vision and awareness. He can score from the inside or the outside, has the ability to handle the basketball and take players off the dribble. Jeffries court savvy and knowledge of the game are two intangibles that are often overlooked when evaluating an NBA prospect. Once he fine-tunes his shooting touch and packs on some needed strength and weight, teams may look back and wish they had selected Jeffries in the first dozen picks.
If you believe in the accuracy of player weights and heights listed on team rosters, then Jeffries tale of the tape resembles those of current NBA star Keith Van Horn. Each listed at 6-10 and 220 lbs., Van Horn is a more polished shooter, but even the young Jeffries himself says he is an unfinished basketball player at the time when he declared his intentions for the NBA Draft. Moreover, Jeffries’ competitiveness and willingness to continue working on and improving his game may lead to a shorter learning curve than those with more athleticism. Add in the toughness he showed in overcoming a rash of midseason injuries to his basketball knowledge, Jeffries might be higher on an NBA team’s draft list than previously advertised.
This season’s NBA Rookie of the Year Pau Gasol scales just two inches and a few pounds heavier than Jeffries with his thin frame, but managed to play in every game for the Grizzlies this season. The edge for Gasol, in a comparison with the lanky Jeffries, is in the shooting department. With his soft touch and ability to knock down the medium range jumper as well as score underneath, Gasol had the opportunity to get the minutes needed for solid production for the young Grizzlies.
Depending on which team drafts Jeffries, he may not be given the opportunity to learn on the job as Gasol did. Memphis’ situation of building with young talent and not being as concerned with the number of wins right now allowed Gasol to land quality playing time, adjust to the NBA and have an exceptionally successful rookie campaign. What if Jeffries could enter the league in a similar context?
Jeffries was born and raised in the Hoosier heartland where basketballs bounce year round. He led a young Indiana team written off by many to the edge of a championship. Sure all of the college accolades don’t always add up to a stellar NBA career, but all the numbers for Jeffries seem to add up to a selection between 11th and 16th in the 2002 NBA Draft. Unless of course some crafty NBA talent scout sees the versatile Jeffries as a top 10 pick. Either way, Jeffries will be ready to make steady contributions on both ends of the court early in his career. With the Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago looming on the horizon, Jeffries will have the chance to prove himself once again. Who knows? He may even be this year’s NBA diamond in the rough.
David Bane is a freelance writer based in Indiana and a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com
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