Jeter continued along in that supporting role, extending through his junior season in 2013-14. He had grown to a full 6-10, however, and by the opening of the 2014 travel circuit he had begun to take on a more glamorous sheen on the grassroots circuit.
But his recruitment never lagged as much as his perception. He took an official visit to Duke as a junior and, even prior to summer, had whittled list of contenders to the Blue Devils, Arizona, UCLA, UNLV, Kansas and Oregon, taking unofficial trips to his other suitors.
Speculation that Mike Krzyzewski's program held a big lead gained traction during the spring and maintained during the summer, though many expected him to commit prior to his ultimate August announcement. Still, Duke gained his commitment in the end.
He enters his final year of prep basketball universally regarded as a blue-chip prospect and at least arguably candidate for the national top 10.
Jeter's style encompasses that of a modern big man with the fundamental trappings of a player from a bygone era. He possesses outstanding straight-line mobility and comfortably changes ends of the court even in the highest-octane environments.
He also moves reasonably well laterally for defensive pick and roll purposes, and he's strong enough himself that he'll be effective offensively in those sets as well.
Jeter's offense includes a workable face-up jump shot with range to 15 feet. Facing the rim doesn't yet stand as his forte, but the mechanics are present and he continues to make strides.
So that's the modern part. He can play away from the basket — and will be able to do so increasingly as he evolves — and maintain the pace in a speed game, which will be particularly critical should he advance to the NBA.
But he presently does his best work in a more traditional context. Jeter actually earned my praise as the summer's best rebounder, not only using his size and quickness but also good straight-up leaping ability and finely coordinated hands to rip down caroms in traffic. That talent should translate all the way to the top of the sport, and it’s an attribute that many of today's big guys are forced to learn along the way.
Offensively, he's downright old school. By far — and I mean, by far — his best offensive weapon is a jump hook from short-range. He works hard to establish post position and quickly turns into that shot. He already makes them from as far away as 10 feet and is fairly accurate even from more challenging angles along the baseline.
|Jeter has every reason to be all smiles|
Jeter also is a fine passer whose ability to find shooters and other big men will become even more valuable as his jump shot improves from 15 feet. In that respect his passing is somewhat dormant for the time being but should blossom later.
His intangibles are top notch. He competes fiercely in big games, has sacrificed his own exposure (due to Zimmerman) in the name of individual development at his own pace, and the results speak for themselves.
Jeter is basic. As much as I admire his meat and potatoes style, eventually he's going to require greater wrinkles than he currently possesses. He's more of a linear athlete and not the kind of guy who's going to score on drives with great agility, so most likely he'll need to expand his game outward.
The good news is that he owns the tools to fashion a more expansive offensive repertoire, but he may not fully ripen for a few years.
More immediately, he needs to change the angle of his hook. It's a wonderful shot, yes, but it's also too available for shotblocking defenders. He struggled at times on the travel circuit with opponents who had approximate length and athleticism, as they could block or even pack the shot before he could release it. It's more of a half-hook than a full-on jump hook, so turning his hips and using his shoulders as a buffer zone will be key.
I don't perceive that to be a long-term concern, but it could curtail his freshman year scoring production.
Jeter projects as the heir at center to incoming Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor. That's a tall order and no one should make comparisons between the two as interior scorers — Okafor being far stronger, dynamic and more physical — but Jeter clearly is worthy of the praise he has received over the past nine months.
I don't perceive him to become the next one and done to emerge from Durham, because I think he'll need to transition his offense in order to command a high NBA draft pick. He's a good athlete, not a great one, and he also possesses good, not great post size by professional standards. He'll have to get it done with skill, not just raw athleticism, extraordinary reach or brute power.
Still, he very well could emerge as a two-year college player because he doesn't appear to be far from developing his game to the level he'll need to advance beyond.
At Duke, he should anchor the team's rebounding needs as well as its need for a defensive center to protect the rim. The Devils haven't recruited as many perimeter defensive stoppers recently — and as they recruit more one-year players, experience issues will continue to arise — placing greater pressure on the defense's backline to step up and cover for others' limitations. But Jeter, due to his size, strength and intelligence, should be able to pick up the system quickly.
If the Devils' offense adapts in 2014-15 to accommodate Okafor's post scoring, a residual effect also could occur that would offer more frequent touches for Jeter as well. And as he polishes his overall scoring package, both he and his future team should benefit handsomely.
He'll enter his senior year as a national elite and almost certain prep All-American in the 2015 spring.