This is the NBAs age minimum rule taken directly from the leagues collecting bargaining agreement. When this age requirement was put in, Commissioner Stern and many of the other higher ups in the league may have been thinking well, although we didnt get the 20 year old limit, at least well get these kids in school for one year. Were they wrong?
Once the CBA was agreed upon, prep schools such as Mount Zion Academy (NC), South Kent Prep (CT), Laurinburg Prep (NC) were licking their chops. They realized that many of the nations top players who would have made the leap to the NBA right out of high school might consider using prep schools as a one year temporary home in order to avoid attending college for a year, and possibly having their games exposed against older and more experienced foes. It is looking more and more like the first one to attempt to do this may be Patterson School (NC) 5th year player Davon Jefferson.
Davon Jefferson came into the spring of 2005 as an athletic 68 power forward, with great athleticism and a ton of upside. He was tall, blessed with long arms and really nice quickness on the offensive end. Jefferson initially signed with UNLV, so it was obvious that we would be able to see plenty of him next year with the Running Rebels. In March, the author made a three day trek to the EA Sports Roundball Classic in Chicago to see what him and other top high school prospects have to offer. At that time, the prevailing notion was that he was a power forward who had all of the tools to make the transition to small forward, but really needed to improve upon his skill level if he wanted to make the eventual jump to the NBA, which he had supposedly been considering.
Fast forward two months. With the AAU season now starting to get in full swing, a familiar name popped up again: Davon Jefferson. It became clear that Jefferson was not able to become academically eligible to play in 05-06 for UNLV. That aside, the coach who recruited Davon to UNLV (Marvin Menzies), bolted and headed east to Louisville. His decommitment from UNLV due to academic reasons and the coaching changes stated above reopened his recruiting process, eventually landing him at The Patterson School in North Carolina for a 5th year of school. As the only viable American prep prospect at this point outside of the NBA due to the age limit, NBA scouts will be flocking to see him all season long, especially if the early entry chatter that were hearing from his camp continues to get louder as it consistently has lately.
Jefferson played with the H-Squad this summer, a California based AAU team who later changed their name to Team Danny Williams. He was absolutely dominating the scene, leading his team to multiple tournament victories as well as improving his perimeter game to where he was truly one of the elite players in the country.
Another opportunity to watch him and his supposedly vastly improved outside game arose at the Reebok Bigtime Tournament in Las Vegas over the summer. This was the last big event of the AAU season, and Jefferson did not disappoint.
Offensively, Jefferson was virtually unstoppable. If a taller player guards him, he uses his great first step and quickness to take him to the rack. If a smaller player guards him, Davon goes directly to the blocks and posts up. He is comfortable going both right and left, and is equally comfortable finishing with both hands. The promising forward often shows off an extremely quick spin move when a defender recovers to his initial move when out on the perimeter, as well as a nice turnaround jumpshot out of the post. When the double team comes, Davon has no problem finding the open man as his decision making skills are fairly solid. When near the rim in Vegas, you might as well have put two points on the board because the California native used his athleticism to the fullest extent, dunking anything around the rim and using his body well enough to get to the line more then your normal small forward would.
Defensively, Jefferson has all of the tools to be a great defender, but he just hasnt put them all together yet. He has prototypical size for a wing, great athleticism, and most importantly, hes not afraid to mix it up inside and rebound the ball. In terms of hitting the glass, Davon is all you can ask for out of a small forward. He does a great job of boxing out, then really goes and attacks the ball with his impressive leaping ability. Jefferson also uses his combination of size and speed to create havoc in the passing lanes, along with being able to block or alter countless shots throughout the game.
It must be kept in mind however that Davon is still in the process of making the transition from power forward to small forward, and is just now starting to get there. He still does not have an adequate outside jumpshot for a wing, evidenced by the fact that he did not make even a single three pointer in my time watching him in Las Vegas. He doesnt really seem to quite have a feel for the game yet on the perimeter, nor the footwork, as he basically relies on his great explosiveness to beat people off of the dribble. Although Davon has shown the ability to knock down the pull-up midrange jumper off of the dribble, it still remains very inconsistent and really must be improved upon, considering that hes a wing who isnt a three point threat yet. Jeffersons ball handling skills are not quite there yet, but they have improved drastically within the past six months. His body structure is very good, as he has the potential to add weight, but he still remains a bit skinny for a 68 player at only around 200 lbs. However, this should not be a problem once he reaches the next level.
Jeffersons most glaring weakness, though, like many prep stars, is his defense. As mentioned before, Davon certainly has all the tools to be a solid defender, but they just havent come together at this point. In certain games he looks like a very solid defender statistically based on his rebounding, blocked shots, and steal numbers, but the player he is guarding will wind up with at least 20 points. Never was this clearer than when Jefferson went up against Cincinnati North College Hill wing Bill Walker, and could not do a single thing to stop the class of 2007 stud. It seems as if so much of his teams offensive load is placed on his shoulders, that Jefferson might not have the stamina to put forth the same amount of effort on both ends of the floor, a problem that indeed many talented NBA wing players encounter as their teams first option offensively. Being forced to guard the opposing teams best player, whether it may be a small forward or power forward is apparently a whole lot for a teenager to take on when you are relied upon to score at least 25 points a game. To shed a positive light on this, Davon openly acknowledged that his defense is by far the area of his game which needs the most improvement, so hopefully we will have a defensive stopper on our hands by the time the spring all-star games roll around.
So this is what we know about Davon Jefferson right now. It is looking more and more like he might be the very first case study in the prep school vs. college debate. It will be interesting to follow Jefferson this year and see how he fares at the prep school level compared to a player who was in a similar situation but opted for the NCAA instead, Brandon Rush. Like Jefferson, Rush mulled entering the NBA Draft throughout his entire senior year of high school. Unlike Jefferson, Rush actually entered the draft, but decided to pull out once he realized that he was not a guaranteed first round pick. What proceeded that was one of the most publicized recruiting battles in recent history, with Rush being unable to decide whether to attend college or prep school just about until the first day of college classes started, not knowing whether he would be academically eligible either. Rush ended up deciding on Kansas, where he will have an immediate impact. Rush will be playing against much better competition, more mature players, and alongside fellow future NBAers at Kansas while Jefferson will be playing against 17 year old kids at the Patterson School. NBA scouts, fans, but especially other young prep stars will be following both of these players on the different roads that they have traveled to try and gauge who made the better decision. Only time will tell which is the more effective route to the NBA and that elusive first paycheck, prep school or the NCAA?
Reebok Big Time Results
Team Danny Williams final record: 6-2, lost in semi-finals
Davon Jefferson averages from 7 games we have statistics for: 26 points per game, 61.1% FG, 0% 3 PT, 75.6% FT, 8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 3.6 TO, 1 block, .75 steals
Game by game breakdown:
Team Danny Williams 78, Portland Panthers 80
Jefferson- 27 points, 12/17 FG, 3/5 FT, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, 3 steals in 30 minutes.
Team Danny Williams win over Houston Elite
Jefferson- 35 points
In a head to head matchup with Oklahoma recruit Damion James, Jefferson came out ready to play with a flurry of aggressive drives to the basket, midrange jumpers, and powerful dunks. He was absolutely dominant in the first half, winding up with 25 points in only 16 minutes.
Davon did not let down in the second half, as he continued to score at will with his great combination of size and athleticism for a small forward prospect, finishing the game with 35 points. James was no slouch in his own right however, as he wound up scoring 27 points on a combination of athletic drives and gritty inside buckets.
Team Danny Williams 95, Metro Boston/Lena Park 70
Jefferson- 18 points, 4/10 FG, 0/1 3 PT, 10/12 FT, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 turnovers, 1 block in 22 minutes
Team Danny Williams 80, Houston Swoosh 17 Blue 65
Jefferson- 26 points, 11/14 FG, 0/1 3 PT, 4/7 FT, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 7 turnovers, 1 block in 30 minutes
Team Danny Williams 68, R.B.C. West 58
Jefferson- 26 points, 11/19 FG, 0/2 3 PT, 4/4 FT, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 2 blocks, 3 steals in 32 minutes
Team Danny Williams 80, Reach Legends 79
Jefferson- 24 points, 10/19 FG, 4/6 FT, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 TO, 1 steal in 30 minutes
In this final 8 matchup, Jefferson went toe to toe with Michigan recruit Deshawn Sims, and walked away the victor. Davon played his typical game by rebounding the ball, slashing to the basket, and being an absolute matchup nightmare for whoever had the task of guarding him. His outside shot was a bit off, but one thing that really stood out in this game was his ability to find the open man, no matter where he was on the floor. This specific game was the one that made many people believe that Jefferson will be able to make the transition to a full time SF eventually.
Team Danny Williams 76, D-1 Greyhounds 87
Jefferson- 26 points, 10/16 FG, 0/1 3 PT, 6/7 FT, 7 rebounds, 0 assists, 4 TO, 1 block in 32 minutes
Davon started off the game by showing off his great leaping ability on a D-1 lay-up attempt which he powerfully pinned against the glass. It was very clear yet again that the former UNLV recruit had put in quite a bit of work on his ball handling skills since we last saw him at the Roundball Classic, as he was able to easily break down opposing wings off the dribble with his tight, low handle. Throughout the game, Jefferson showed off quite a few remarkably quick spin moves, which he then converted into power dunks. This 5th year player did show a few glaring weaknesses, especially on the defensive end. He could not do anything at all to stop rising junior Bill Walker, as Walker scored 27 points on only 10/14 FG. On back to back possessions, Walker called Jefferson out well beyond the three point line, crossed him over, and drove through the lane to finish with emphatic dunks from 12 or so feet away from the basket. Davon also did not show much of an outside shot, something else that he will really need to work on if hes planning on making the jump to the NBA in 2006. Overall, this was a solid game for Jefferson, though. A nice performance on the offensive end, but his defensive ability, or lack thereof, was really exposed on the other end of the floor.
Interview from Big Time
DraftExpress: What made you decide to go the prep school route instead of college this season?
Davon Jefferson: My assistant coach [at UNLV] Menzies, Marvin Menzies, he went to Louisville. I just wasnt really comfortable coming to Vegas no more. When he left, that was another big decision for me leaving. I just dont wanna go there no more.
DraftExpress: So what schools are you still looking at?
Jefferson: Louisville, UCLA, USC, Kansas, and Oklahoma State.
DraftExpress: So I take it that all of those schools have offered you?
Jefferson: No. I cant really talk to anyone right now because I still havent been officially released from UNLV.
DraftExpress: A lot of people said that you were thinking of entering the NBA Draft last season, what made you decide against putting your name in?
Jefferson: I felt that I wasnt ready. I think if I play hard this year, gain some weight, work on my jumpshot, work on my dribbling, I think Ill be better off coming out this year.
DraftExpress: What position do you envision yourself being in the NBA?
Jefferson: A 3 for sure.
DraftExpress: So youve mentioned that you need to work on your shot to make the transition to the 3 at the next level, what are some other things that you think you need to work on to make that transition from more of a combo forward like you are now to a full time 3?
Jefferson: My defense. Im going to have to guard on the wings. Im going to have to work on that. Im going to have to work on that a lot.
DraftExpress: Speaking of guarding wings, you had to guard a pretty tough one today in Bill Walker. Whats it like having to guard him?
Jefferson: It was a good experience for me. I enjoyed it. It was a good game. Hes really good.
DraftExpress: Have you decided on a prep school yet?
Jefferson: I havent decided on one yet. Its between Mount Zion and Stoneridge Prep in California.
DraftExpress: Well what are some of the factors in your decision on a prep school?
Jefferson: As long as they can get me eligible because Im not worried about them working me out because Im going to get better myself because I have people around me who are going to get me better. Im just going to work hard. As long as I can get eligible and see what kind of schedule theyre playing, who theyre playing against, thats going to be the decision I make.
DraftExpress: So are you still keeping the NBA as one of your options for 2006?
Jefferson: Oh yeah. Definitely.