Top ten most influential: Richard Jefferson will count down the top ten most influential players in Arizona history. Read on for a closer look at number ten Richard Jefferson.

The role a player filled in advancing the Arizona program was the biggest factor in judging the most consequential UA basketball players since the beginning of the Olson era. Players who helped build the program before it became a national entity were given special consideration. Consideration was also given to a player's role in building a school legacy, memorable performances, obstacles overcome, professional success, local ties, and philanthropic efforts.

10. Richard Jefferson

6-foot-7, 205 pounds

Moon Valley High School

Phoenix, AZ

Pre UA

Jefferson was voted Arizona State Player of the Year as a senior and was named to the 1998 McDonald's All-American Team.

UA Career

1998-99: Fr. (22-7 overall record) 2nd Pac-10

11.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 49.5 Field Goal Percentage, 36.4 Three-Point Percentage

Regular Season: Though Jefferson's athleticism stood out immediately, he was forced to come off the bench in the early part of the season. He eventually won the starting small forward position and improved throughout the season.

NCAA Tournament: Jefferson was a non-factor as No. 4 seed UA lost to 13 seed Oklahoma in the first round.

1999-2000: Soph. (27-7 overall record) T-1st Pac-10

11 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.2 BPG, 50.3 Field Goal Percentage. 42.5 Three-Point Percentage

Regular Season: Though Jefferson missed much of the Pac-10 season recovering from a broken foot, UA's unique blend of skill, size, speed, and athleticism still overwhelmed most teams. All five starters played their roles masterfully while displaying all the components needed to win a national championship.

UA's title hopes were dashed late in the season due to a back injury sustained by starting center Loren Woods.

NCAA Tournament: No. 1 seed Arizona quickly dispatched of 16 seed Jackson State, advancing to play 8 seed Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's slowdown style frustrated UA. The Wildcats were unable to get anything going offensively and struggled defensively against Wisconsin's ball control offense. Foul trouble limited Jefferson to only 16 minutes, as Wisconsin upset Arizona 66-59.

2000-01: Jr. (28-8 overall record) 15-3 2nd Pac-10

11.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 47.9 Field Goal Percentage, 34.4 Three-Point Percentage

Regular Season: The Wildcats entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country, and a roster boasting five players on the 50 player preseason Wooden watch list.

Jefferson was asked to be a defender first, and scorer second, and thrived in this role, routinely shutting down the opponent's best perimeter scorer.

The team meshed toward the end of the season and went into the tournament pegged by some as the favorite to win the national championship.

NCAA Tournament: The Wildcats faced little competition in the first weekend against Eastern Illinois and Butler, but that would change in their Sweet Sixteen match-up against No. 3 seed Ole Miss. UA played a lethargic first half and went into halftime down one to the Rebels. Spurred by Jefferson's scoring and rebounding, the Wildcats pulled away in the second half.

The win set up an Elite Eight match-up against No. 1 seed Illinois, led by do-it-all point guard and Big 10 Player of the Year Frank Williams. Jefferson harassed Williams for much of the game, holding him to 3-for-15 shooting from the field. Jefferson also chipped in some timely baskets as UA advanced to play No. 1 seed Michigan State in the Final Four.

Jefferson did it all against Michigan State. He played lockdown defense on whomever he was guarding and was a force offensively, scoring 17 points in UA's 80-61 win.

UA's win over Michigan State paved the way for a Duke-Arizona championship game match-up. While UA trailed most of the contest, Jefferson helped keep the game close with a combination of three-pointers and acrobatic slashes to the hoop. He scored 19 points on 4-for-8 shooting from three-point range, while the rest of the team shot 0-for-14 from behind the arc.

Career Honors/Achievements

  • 1998/99 All-Pac-10 Freshman Team

  • 2001 All-Final Four Team

    Post UA

  • 2001 NBA Draft Rd. 1 Overall 13 (Houston Rockets)-Traded to New Jersey

  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team

  • 2004 Olympic Team Member

  • Earned more than $ 76 million

  • UA third all-time leading NBA scorer (11,999)

  • Jefferson's 3.5 million dollar pledge to UA was the second largest donation in athletic department history.

    Role in Building Program: While Jefferson's UA statistics weren't eye-popping, he played a key role for arguably the best team in school history. On a team with a plethora of scoring options, Jefferson took a back seat offensively while developing into an elite defender.

    Jefferson's philanthropic efforts matched his on-court exploits. In an era of college sports where athletic departments are in an arms race to get the best facilities, Jefferson's $ 3.5 million donation is all the more important. It is the second largest donation in UA athletic department history and became the largest known donation of a current pro basketball player to his alma mater.

    Jefferson is Number 10… because he was an underrated contributor on arguably the best team in UA history, while his contributions off the court are still helping the program.

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