When Amile Jefferson went down with an injury late in the first half of Saturday’s game against Boston College, Duke senior guard Matt Jones said he had flashbacks.
“Flashbacks to what happened last year,” Jones said.
Jones was referencing the foot fracture Jefferson sustained as a senior last season in practice. Jefferson had played in nine games that season before the injury forced him to sit out the remaining 27 games of the season.
The NCAA granted him a medical redshirt to allow him to play in his fifth year as a graduate student.
It was unclear how Jefferson injured his foot this time. But while on defense, he dropped to the ground and pointed to his right foot. Boston College had the ball before the referees stopped play. Jefferson crawled to the bench.
Trainers came over to examine him before he went back into the locker room.
Jefferson eventually returned to the bench with about 10 minutes left in the game without a boot. But he did not re-enter. Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel said after the game that Jefferson was having X-rays on the foot.
“We don’t know the extent of it yet,” Capel said. “Hopefully we’ll find out a little bit later.”
Jones said although he initially thought the worse, he’s optimistic that Jefferson would be OK.
“He’s a strong kid and he knows he’s not alone,” Jones said. “So those factors, I know he’s going to be all right.”
Before Jefferson went down, he was leading the team in points with 11 and was 5-for-7 from the floor. Capel, who is stepping in for Mike Krzyzewski while he recovers from back surgery, said losing Jefferson hurt the team offensively and defensively.
“Amile is as important as anyone we have on our team, and when he went down a lot of stuff changed for us,” Capel said. “When he was in there he was playing great first of all, but he does so much stuff that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet. And the stat sheet is still pretty good.”
After being up by as many as 22 points midway through the second half, Duke saw its lead shrink to 8 with a little less than five minutes to play. Both Harry Giles and Marques Bolden were in foul trouble, and Duke had little options to replace them.
At one point, Jayson Tatum, a 6-foot-8, 205 pound forward played the 5.
“Just praying that he’s all right because we definitely need him,” Tatum said.
Giles played well in Jefferson’s place before he fouled out of the game. He scored a season-high 12 points and also grabbed five rebounds. He played 24 minutes, which is the longest he has played this season.
Giles said when he saw Jefferson go down, he knew he had to “toughen up.”
“I just told him to stay up baby, you good,” Giles said. “We got you. I’m a hold it down for you.”
Jefferson is averaging 13.8 points per game and 10.6 rebounds. If Jefferson misses an extended period of time, Duke would likely use a committee of players, as it did Saturday.
Jones said Jefferson’s passion was still there after he injured his foot. Jefferson grabbed his teammates and told them to go win the game. While Jones said he expects Jefferson to return, he’s confident the Blue Devils will be able to step up.
“We’ve had to adjust before this year,” he said. “That’s kind of just been indicative of the year we’ve had. If he’s not been able to play then obviously we will have to adjust. We’re confident in everybody in this locker room, but we’re confident in his situation as well.”