Since I learned yesterday that Othyus Jeffers would be one of the players in Memphis' massive D-League tryout starting today, I found it only fitting that I take my turn on the player profiles train and give a little love to Othyus Jeffers. Jeffers, a 6'5", 200 pound swingman out of Robert Morris-Chicago, averaged 21 points, nine boards and over two steals per game, shooting 54% from the field on his way to being named the D-League's Rookie of the Year. Jeffers also has probably the most interesting backstory you'll ever read about a D-League player. Sorry it's long, but if ever I wrote something worth reading, Jeffers' story it is.
How he got here
Othyus Jeffers grew up on the Westside of Chicago, though his basketball career started across town at Hubbard High. He attended Hubbard, where he first played organized basketball as a junior, because the schools in his own neighborhood were too violent. His senior year, he averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds in a league that also featured Shaun Livingston, Julian Wright, Shannon Brown, Shaun Pruitt, Sherron Collins and fellow D-Leaguer DeWitt Scott.
His high school career spanned two high schools, a junior college a D-1 school before finally graduating from Robert Morris-Chicago, an NAIA school, with a degree in business. Normally this would be a red flag, but it was more a case of wanting to do what was best for his family and himself than anything else.
Jeffers grew up in a rough neighborhood and had already had two of his brothers murdered by the time he graduated from high school. This, as it would anyone, seemed to affect his schoolwork, leading to Jeffers needing to go the JuCo route out of high school, settling with Los Angeles' Southwest Community College. There, he averaged 22.3 points and 10.7 rebounds, leading to him getting scholarship offers from Big 10 and Big 12. Ultimately, he decided he wanted to be closer to his family back in Chicago, though, leading to him choosing to go to the University of Illinois, Chicago campus.
After he took off a season to get his grades in order, help he turned out to be just as good of a player at the Division 1 level as he was in junior college. He became the Horizon League's Newcomer of the Year, averaging 11.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and shooting 49% from the field. The following season at UIC, he averaged 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds, playing a combo forward role for the Flames and being named to the All-Horizon League First Team.
This, however, is when Jeffers story once again takes a turn for the worse. Four weeks after being named all-conference, his sister called him for help, saying her boyfriend had just beat her. When he arrived at her house, she was outside with her one year old daughter when the father returned with a gun. He was quoted by USA Today saying guns are "something we see every day. Nobody thought he was going to use it." The boyfriend used it though, shooting Jeffers through the left thigh, missing the major arteries, along with shooting his sister in the left calf.
This led to him transferring away from UIC, which was in the same neighborhood as the shooting, as he didn't feel safe. He ended up at Robert Morris, still in Chicago, but not as close to the shooting. At Robert Morris, Jeffers finished with averages of 22.2 points and 9.1 rebounds to go with 2.5 steals with shooting 60% (SIXTY) from the field, continuing his role as a combo-forward.
Though I, as Director of Operations of the CBA's Minot SkyRockets, selected him in the third round of the CBA draft, he was also selected in the third round of the D-League draft.(Note what I wrote: Othyus Jeffers, who will turn heads in the D-League) For reasons unknown, however, he decided to play in the D-League, rather than come play for me in the dismal, folding-in-three-months-midseason-no-less CBA.
Continue on for analysis of his D-League season, as this is getting entirely too long for the front page.
Jeffers started the D-League season, coincidentally, not starting. Does it surprise me that a 6'5" NAIA power forward wasn't named an opening night starter? Not at all. However, he didn't start until the 15th game of the season, after Larry Ayuso went MIA. This doesn't mean he wasn't playing well before this though, as he was averaging 18.1 points off the bench as the backup 3/2/4 (Yes, 4).
In his first start, January 15th against Anaheim, Jeffers showed that it was deserved. Jeffers scored 28 points on 17 shots, grabbing 10 boards, dishing five assists and picking up three steals along the way, holding Cedric Bozeman to just 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
Jeffers showed to be an efficient scorer (mostly slashing, but his jump shot improved consistently throughout the season), but his most efficient game came January 29th against Sioux Falls. In this game, working against defensive stud Bobby Jones, Jeffers scored 34 points on 14 shots, adding 10 rebounds and three steals in the process. As Iowa assistant Gary Garner said in the halftime interview, "He's the most efficient player in this league. He might be our best player. I don't know."
Jeffers, right before the Energy's first playoff game, had a bit of confusion to deal with, however. I can't figure out what exactly happened, but he was apparently rather close to a call-up with the Golden State Warriors. I've recapped the reports in handy bullet form:
- The Warriors brought in Othyus Jeffers, the NBA Development League rookie of the year from the Iowa Energy, but it didn't pan out. -- Mercury News
- former Robert Morris Men's Basketball star Othyus Jeffers has been signed by the Golden State Warriors and will make his NBA debut when the Warriors face the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, April 13, 2009. -- NAIA Sports Information Department
- The Iowa Energy's leading scorer Thursday night was available only because he got his wires crossed with the Golden State Warriors. Othyus Jeffers thought he had a deal to play the final two games of the NBA season with the Warriors, then stay around and be guaranteed a spot on their summer-league team. "Things just didn't work out contract-wise," said Jeffers. -- Des Moines Register
In conclusion, I have no idea what happened. Upon returning, though, he played a great game in a playoff loss to the Wizards, scoring 31 points on 18 shots, chipping 14 boards, four assists, and two blocked shots.
Jeffers can ball. John Hollinger says he's closer to 6'2" than 6'5", (though he's actually probably closer to 6'4") but I don't think that's going to cause any problems, as he plays like he's much bigger. He's in great shape, an amazing athlete and his wingspan is probably close 7-feet (I wish he would've went through a pre-draft combine so we had accurate measurements).
The things that'll get him to stick with an NBA team, though, is his defense. Although he doesn't block many shots, his on-ball defense is exceptional. He gets in a guys grill and doesn't swipe at the ball, but stays on him close enough that eventually the player just passes the ball rather than dealing with Jeffers pesky-ness. He's quick enough that the offense can't get around him, and he's strong enough that nobody's going to be able to go through him.
His offense, on the other hand, needs a bit of work, but not much. Off the dribble, he's exceptional, as no one can defend his first step and he's able to finish at the rim - he's very deliberate. Shooting though, is ocassionally a bit of a problem. It's not that he has a bad shot, it looks pretty, but it doesn't fall as much as you'd think it should when watching it leave his hands. He's been a power forward much of his career though, so I'm assuming his jump shot will improve with more time spent, as it seems the mechanics are there.
He'll be in the NBA. I'm not sure if it'll be full-time,but a lot of people like him. I know Memphis was actually interested in him in January already, so don't be surprised to see him get a look if they see what they want to see out of him this week.