Amile Jefferson picks Duke over N.C. State

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMay 16, 2012 

Duke missed on Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker, but not on Amile Jefferson.

After being spurned by two of the country’s top recruits last month, the Blue Devils rebounded Tuesday with the last big prize of the 2012 college basketball recruiting class.

Jefferson, a McDonald’s All-American forward from Philadelphia, ended months of speculation – and weeks of waiting – by choosing Duke over N.C. State.

“This was a hard decision for me,” Jefferson said at a press conference attended by about 300 students and faculty at his high school’s gym.

With his mother and father sitting next to him, Jefferson put on a Duke hat and said, “In the end, I just felt Duke was the best choice for me.”

Jefferson, 6-7 and 190 pounds, led Friends’ Central to its fourth straight state title this season. He averaged 19.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. He’s rated as the No. 25 overall prospect in the class of 2012 by ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep.

He gives the Blue Devils, 27-7 last season, a boost in the frontcourt and an infusion of talent. With Jefferson and McDonald’s All-American guard Rasheed Sulaimon on the roster, Duke is likely to enter the fall as the preseason favorite to win the ACC.

Jefferson’s decision ends a mini-slump for the Duke program, which was knocked out in its opening game of the NCAA tournament by 15th-seeded Lehigh. Shortly after the March 16 loss, the Blue Devils lost All-ACC guard Austin Rivers to the NBA.

Muhammad, a dynamic small forward considered the second-ranked player in the class by ESPN, and Parker, a 6-9 forward and No. 26 prospect in the class, both chose UCLA over Duke in April.

Jefferson noted the opportunity on Duke’s roster.

“Right now, I don’t think they have a guy at my position,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t think they have a guy like me.”

Jefferson also noted the pull of playing for Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest coach in Division I men’s basketball history.

“Coach K brings an energy to our team that I want to bring back to him,” Jefferson said. “When he looks in my eyes, I want him to see the energy that I see in his eyes.

His high school coach described Jefferson as a forward with a “high basketball IQ” and the skills to play on the low block or the wing.

“He’s more comfortable with his back to the basket, but he has the ability to take the ball to the high post or go to the perimeter and play the ‘3,’” Friends’ Central coach Jason Polykoff said earlier this month.

Jefferson’s decision solidifies Duke’s forward rotation, which features returning veterans Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. It also leaves N.C. State with some depth issues.

With the transfers of reserve forwards DeShawn Painter and Tyler Harris, the Wolfpack could have used some help in the frontcourt. Junior Jordan Vandenberg and sophomore Thomas de Thaey are the post options off the bench behind starters C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell. Freshman T.J. Warren, a 6-7 wing forward, also could be used to defend the post.

Duke adds Jefferson to a forward rotation with Josh Hairston, Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee. Murphy and Marshall Plumlee both redshirted as freshmen last season.

Before Jefferson’s decision, Duke already had been tabbed as a preseason top 15 team by ESPN and Sports Illustrated. The Blue Devils return three starters from a team that finished 13-3 in the ACC, one game behind North Carolina for the regular-season title.

With Rivers jumping to the NBA after one season, and the graduation of forward Miles Plumlee, Duke needed new talent, and Jefferson will help on that front.

UNC and Florida State, the league champions, both underwent significant roster changes but both, and N.C. State, will be Duke’s main competition in the ACC race.

Telep, ESPN’s top recruiting analyst, cautioned last week that Jefferson is more of a complementary than impact player, but Duke’s chances to win the league improved with Jefferson’s decision on Tuesday.

Correspondent Everett Merrill contributed to this report.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service