By Kevin McGuire
Name: Amile Jefferson
University: Duke University
Weight: 215 lb
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Position: Power forward
The story of the Duke Blue Devils this season has been led by potential No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Jahill Okafor, but he cannot do it all alone if the Blue Devils are going to win the national championship. He needs a supporting cast around him.
Philadelphia’s own Amile Jefferson, a 6’ 9” power forward out of Friends Central School has taken on a supporting role under legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. He may fly under the radar compared to Okafor, but Jefferson does what he can in helping to give Duke as good a chance to make a deep run to the Final Four. If his opportunities are limited, he must take advantage of them when presented.
“March can be cruel at some points if you are not ready to play,” Jefferson said prior to the start of the tournament last week. “Our guys have been ready to play since we found out where we were going.”
Jefferson and Duke have waited for this opportunity. The Blue Devils were bounced from the tournament by No. 14 seed Mercer, two years after being taken out by No. 15 seed Lehigh. Jefferson did not want to see his team suffer a similar unfortunate ending this season. So far, Jefferson and Duke have taken care of business.
No matter what happens on the court, Jefferson has become a vocal leader of the Blue Devils, a role that has developed with time.
Duke does not ask much form Jefferson on the court. He can be counted on for a few points here and there, but he has shown the ability to score in double digits against tough opponents like North Carolina and Louisville. He scored 19 points in a road win at Louisville earlier this season and 13 point sin an overtime victory against the Tar Heels.
Given the way the ACC has performed in the tournament, Jefferson and Duke appear to have been tested well for the tourney. It is showing as well.
In the first two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Jefferson chipped in 29 minutes against Robert Morris and shot 4-for-6 from the field and converted two of three free throws. He added six rebounds and three assists in Duke’s tournament-opening win. Against San Diego State, Jefferson played just nine minutes. That was a much smaller slice of playing time for a player averaging nearly 22 minutes per game the past two seasons.
Next up for Duke will be a match-up with Utah out of the Pac-12. Should Jefferson and Duke be fortunate to advance past the Utes, Duke will have a chance to return to the Final Four against either Gonzaga or UCLA.
Jefferson knows Duke is judged by what the Blue Devils do in March, and it has now been five years since the last national championship. By Duke standards, that drought is more than long enough. But Jefferson is from Philadelphia, so he should know what a real championship drought feels like. While the city may be without an NCAA championship hope now that Villanova has been eliminated (Temple is keeping NIT dreams alive), there will be some in the area hoping on the Duke bandwagon in support of Jefferson and his teammates.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.