Even so, the pair of highly-regarded 2019 basketball prospects are already on the radar of some of the top basketball programs in the country.
Jeffries and Collum star for Olive Branch (Miss.) High School as freshmen, forming a dynamic one-two punch that has led the the Conquistadors to an 18-8 overall record, including a 69-68 win over Byhalia Tuesday. Jeffries scored a team-leading 22 points.
Olive Branch will take on Southaven when the MHSAA 6A-1 division tournament starts.
“As players, the sky’s the limit,” Olive Branch head coach Eric Rombaugh said. “They’ve come in here and they’ve been learning all year. First game of the year, I threw them into the fire and they’ve been starting ever since. They’re just getting better as the year goes - learning to be physical and everything that goes along with being a freshman playing on varsity. They’ve taken it well. They’re such good kids. Great attitude, great work ethic. Like I said, the sky’s the limit.”
Jeffries is already receiving a wealth of interest from prospective schools. The 6-foot-7, 170-pound forward is considered among the best in his class, a five-star prospect and the No. 10 overall (No. 7 small forward) by Future150.com.
Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Memphis and Mississippi State have all checked in. He already holds an Ole Miss offer, and Jeffries and Collum have even taken in a few games in the recently-opened Pavilion at Ole Miss.
“They really want me,” said Jeffries, whose parents are Ole Miss fans and hail from nearby Holly Springs . “I like them a lot. I’m keeping them in my favorites. I like the new coliseum.
“I’m probably going to look at everybody, but if I can, I’ll try to stay home.”
Collum, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound point guard, is considered a four-star recruit by Future150 and among the Top 40 players for 2019. Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Memphis and Mississippi State have all shown varying degrees of interest.
“I know about Ole Miss,” he said. “That’s about it. I just go off what I see when we go up to watch games up there. I like their style of play. They run plays, but if you see something you can do, they let you do what you do.”
Though the recruiting process is in its infancy stages, Collum, who goes by the nickname “Dude,” has begun putting together a checklist for narrowing schools. Staying in-state, though, isn’t a priority. He’s only looking for the best opportunity.
“First I’ve got to see if they’ve got what I’m going to school for,” he said. “After that, I’ll go off how the coaches coach, how the players play and how they get along. Stuff like that.”
“As far as Antavion goes, he’s got such a good body already,” Rombaugh said. “With him we’re going to work a lot on his strength and his perimeter shooting. He handles the ball so well; he’s probably the best passer we have. He’s able to create and make things happen. D.J. has a whole ‘nother gear that I haven’t seen in many kids. He shoots it well from the outside, he’s able to handle the ball and once he makes a move, especially in the open court in transition, he’s pretty special. The thing we’re going to work on with D.J. is strength and being able to take some bumps and being able to finish. He’s so athletic. It’s fun to watch.”
Number of Schools in Pursuit of Taylor
Jeffries and Collum might steal headlines, but Olive Branch also boasts one of the top women’s basketball prospects in the country.
Myah Taylor, a 2017 recruit, is committed to Mississippi State. But the Bulldogs aren’t alone in coveting the 5-foot-6 point guard who is rated a four-star prospect and the No. 41 overall player in her class by ESPN.com.
Taylor was the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015 and a Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen selection. She’s averaging 26.1 points, 7.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 5.8 steals per game as a junior.
“Her goal is to make everybody around her better because that makes the team better,” Olive Branch head coach Blake Jones said. “Nobody wants to lose. Myah could score 50 a night if she wanted to, but she’s not like that. She’s got other teammates around her that can score. If Myah was scoring 50 a night and we were getting 2, 4 and 6 from our others, all you would have to do is stop Myah. But we’ve got a pretty decent team, and our record and our reputation speaks for itself. She’s a great player, and that’s why she’s going to fit in well in the SEC. She’s an all-around good player.”
Taylor scored 20 points to lead the Conquistadors to a 64-53 win over Byhalia Tuesday night, and they’ll travel to face DeSoto Central in playoff action Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. Olive Branch is 25-1 on the year and ranked as the No. 13 team in the country by USA Today.
Along with Mississippi State, Taylor said Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Auburn, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Georgetown and others have all been involved with her recruitment. Mississippi State has been the most diligent, however, and proximity to home was among the primary reasons she gave her pledge to Bulldog head coach Vic Schaefer and staff.
“They’re two-and-a-half hours away,” she said. “It’s not far, and they’re one of the top teams in the nation. They’re going to be Top 5. Coach Vic Schaefer is an outstanding coach. I can’t wait to play for him. He’s going to surround me and everyone else with great players, and he preaches defense. He plays the right way. Defense turns to offense, and everybody plays together as a team. I just love his way of coaching. I love the coaching staff and players there, and I love Mississippi State. It was almost an easy pick.”
Jones is an Ole Miss graduate and fan, and his parents are Ole Miss season-ticket holders in all sports, including women’s basketball. They live in the affluent Wellsgate neighborhood in Oxford.
He said Mississippi State, of all schools, has been the most persistent in recruiting his star player.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I thought it spoke well of Mississippi State that Vic Schaefer was at our game that we unfortunately lost Friday night. He didn’t drive to the game; he flew into Olive Branch airport. They had a long practice that overlapped the 4-4:30 hour and he went and hopped on a plane to come watch us play. That’s how aggressive they've been.
“Vic Schaefer has a firm belief in going for the best player in the state every single year. He got Victoria Vivians, he got Jazzmun Holmes last year. I don’t know who’s really targeted for the 2016 class, but he’s got Myah next year. He takes pride in that. I can see that from him. We go to their team camp every year, and they’re great people and they’re a great staff. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them. They’re very wonderful people.”