In the week leading up to Duke basketball’s first game of the season Friday against Georgia State, The Blue Zone will preview all the expected contributors on this 2012-2013 squad, beginning with the freshman Monday and ending with the seniors Friday.
- Year: Freshman
- Height: 6-foot-8
- Position: Small forward
- Last year’s key statistics: 19.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.7 SPG at Friends Central School
Game breakdown: Saying Jefferson is 6-foot-8 doesn’t do justice to the length he brings to the table with a 7-foot-2 wingspan that will allow him to challenge opponents defensively and grab rebounds from day one. He also brings the speed and athleticism that will allow him to play on the wing defensively, giving Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski a plethora of options in terms of matchups when Jefferson is on the floor. When he’s out there, he is going to block shots and steal the basketball—there’s a reason he was the No. 25 recruit in his class, according to ESPN.
But the big questions for Jefferson are with the development of his offensive game and body. Although he has the physical tools to be a dangerous combo forward, his jump shooting is still a work in progress. At the same time, he is extremely lean and will face an uphill battle fighting against bigger forwards in the ACC.
The last thing evident with Jefferson, even just in Duke’s two preseason games so far, is his intelligence on the floor. He flowed fluidly in the offense and made smart reads on the defensive end. That type of play will always generate minutes on a Krzyzewski team.
Role on the team: With Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly firmly entrenched as the starting forwards and both figuring to earn at least 30 minutes per game this season, Jefferson will have to earn all of his minutes. But he has done that in the first two preseason games and could see action at the three as well, especially depending on the early season performance of Alex Murphy, who played fewer than 20 minutes in each of the two exhibitions. And don’t forget about fellow forward Josh Hairston, now a junior, who will be battling him for minutes.
Player comparison: If everything comes together in Jefferson’s game, he could end up playing a lot like Rudy Gay. Another 6-foot-8 forward who has the skills to play on the perimeter but the body to play in the post, Gay was a terror in his time at Connecticut and has turned into a premier NBA player. It will take Jefferson time to fill out and get there, but he has the potential.
Projected stat line: 6.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Check back later today for the preview of Rasheed Sulaimon.