NBAPA: Amile Jefferson Extended Interview

One of the leading scorers at the NBA Players' Association Top 100 Event and a one time Duke recruiting target, Amile Jefferson had everyone buzzing this weekend. So how involved are the Blue Devils with the 6'8 forward? TDD sat down with Jefferson to get the scoop.

Talk with me about the offensive explosion you've had this week Amile. What do you think led to you being so assertive offensively?

Amile Jefferson : What It's just my will to win and if I'm playing with a good team and I don't feel like I need to score a whole lot, I don't want to force anything. I just want to do whatever I can do to help my team win, whether it'd be defending, rebounding, scoring, it doesn't matter.

You guys as media have seen it at camp, we haven't been playing as well as we could and we lost a lot of games, so I just took it as, I need to score more to help my team win. We weren't scoring well, so I just wanted to try and score more to help my team win.

For most players who get more confident offensively, they can point to something: a practice, a game, something that led them to feel more confident, do you have something similar you think led to you playing so lights out offensively?

Definitely. I think it happened around the time that I fell here at camp and had my injury that just made me want to be more aggressive. I was just kind of mad that I got hurt and it kind of took away from me wanting to shoot too much, so I just knew I was going to go hard to the rack as hard as I could and just try to finish. I had great teammates here at camp and they did a good job at finding me. That aggression came real early for me, like in the 2nd game at camp, because that's when I got hurt and then I just wanted to play as hard as I could.

Can you share what the injury was and what it was like playing through it?

It wasn't a fracture or anything broken, but we took some X-rays and there are some tendons that got messed up in the finger. They got kind of pulled. The doctors said they felt like I shouldn't play, but I thought differently.

What led you to want to play then?

My thing was that I wanted to win here at this camp, and I knew from the doctors that it couldn't get any worse injury wise, and I made the decision to be there for my teammates. I was glad we were able to win today and I don't regret playing at all.

This year at camp you seem even more confident in being a vocal leader with your teammates than last year. Was that you making a conscious decision to be a leader, or was it just you being you?

I think it's just me being me, but it's also contagious you know, when you start talking, it's positive for other guys and it makes the team a better team, even if the team is down, if you stay positive and things start to go right, guys will start to feed off of it.

What did you take away from the NBA guys here at camp this week, anything specific?

They are great, that's another reason why I kept playing through the injury because there's just so much to learn from the NBA players who were coaching us. Not just during camp drills, but during the game there's so much I learned from my coaches while playing and being in the team huddles. Like Tony Allen, you know he's a great defender, but when you actually get to see him and learn directly from him, I didn't want to miss out. Also, with Raja Bell, he taught me how to keep guys off balance by putting the ball on the floor. I just wanted to be a sponge with those guys, there's so much to learn from them.

You spent a lot of time down in the paint grabbing offensive rebounds. Talk me through what it's like matching up against physical centers like Joel James and others?

You know…I don't mind banging, some guys have the misconception that I'm too skinny and that it's too hard for me to do that. I like to rebound and I tried to follow Andre's (Drummond) lead and I was blessed to continue to be in opportunities to grab rebounds and help my team.

Switching gears to recruiting, can you talk about the programs that started recruiting you several years ago who have still stuck with you?

Yeah, a lot of the local schools that I'm taking a look at have been like that. Villanova, Temple, Miami has been like that, Wake Forest also, Maryland has also stuck with me, so those are all schools that I'm going to take a hard look at, Penn State's been there from the beginning too.

Maryland's a hot school right now in talking with recruits with their new coaching staff, what has their approach to you been like?

You know, I'm not too familiar with the new coach, but Coach Bino has been there the whole time and he's been my primary recruiter, so it made me even more comfortable with Maryland as a school since he's been there the whole time. I love talking with Coach Bino, he's a great guy.

Another school in the ACC with a new coaching staff is NC State, have they established contact with you?

Oh yes, they have started talking to me and they recruit really hard. I'm going to be taking a hard look at them just because of how hard they have recruited me already. I know that they are a great school and a lot of guys are looking at them and are being recruited by them, so it'll be something fun to look at.

Do you have any schools that are pressuring you for a commitment?

You know, schools are letting me go through the process for myself, and I'm still wide open, so they aren't pressuring me yet.

Ohio State is another school that you've mentioned in the past—in the media it was reported recently that one of their basketball assistant coaches resigned, was that the assistant coach who was recruiting you?

Yeah, I was being recruited by Coach Miller, and that's the coach who I heard just resigned.

How do you feel about that?

Coach Miller wasn't the only coach who was recruiting me on the staff, I had talked with Coach Matta several times, so that's good, because in a way it's like the Maryland situation, where I hadn't any kind of contact with Gary Williams but I knew Coach Bino. With Coach Matta, I'm used to having a great conversation with him in the times we've talked. Coach Miller was a great coach, but I still want to take a look at Ohio State because they have a fabulous program on and off the court.

Some of the schools recruiting you seem to be recruiting a lot of different guys in your class, is that something they are upfront with you about?

Yeah, most schools tell me who they are recruiting and the ones that I've talked about before, they let me know what's going on with them. I'm also friends with most of the players here at camp and we all talk all the time about what schools are saying to us, so even if they think we don't know, we really do. I really want to play that combo 4 position, I think I can hit that mid range shot and also take guys off the dribble, so just being able to do that at a school is something I'm looking at.

Duke's another school that was recruiting you early on, can you characterize where they are in terms of their recruitment with you?

I haven't talked with the staff there for awhile, the last time we talked I believe was about two months or so after I went down there for their Midnight Madness. I'm not sure if they have been keeping in contact with my father or coaches. Things that are out of my control I don't worry about, you know? I just tend to focus on working hard as a player and the things that I know I can't control, I don't get wound up about them, it's not on my mind.

Is Duke's change in interest something that represents they won't be under consideration anymore by you?

No, not at all, like I was saying, you can't worry about things that you can't control as a player. I worry about the fact that I have schools that are recruiting me now, I'm wide open right now, I'm open to all types of schools including Duke if they decide to recruit me.

Talking about your decision, you've mentioned academics before as a big deal to you, what kind of academic programs are you looking for?

I think right now, I'm interested in Psychology, my father works in that field and it's just a great field to look into, you know, learning how to decipher the mind and people. I also like to write a lot, so maybe I could look at doing something with that, but I'm still open to a lot of different things, I really enjoy doing a lot of different things in life.

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