Mike Krzyzewski has been reluctant to let the world see Amile Jefferson this season for reasons that remain unclear. The freshman forward came in with high expectations but had not made much of an impact prior to playing an other-worldly 12 minutes against N.C. State on Saturday.
Alright, so maybe “other-worldly” is a bit of an exaggeration. But that doesn’t change the fact that Jefferson did everything in his power to stop the Wolfpack’s C.J. Leslie and, for the most part, did a fantastic job.
In the first half, Jefferson played Leslie tough and held him to 1-for-4 shooting with five points. With Josh Hairston handling him, Leslie went 3-for-4 with six points. The difference here was that Leslie was able to draw fouls on Jefferson and get himself to the line where he made 3-of-4 for the half.
In the second half, Jefferson came in at the 17:07 mark and kept Leslie off the stat sheet until the 14:45 mark when he got hit with his fourth foul. Leslie took advantage by getting to the line for two free throws before scoring four straight points against Hairston around the 10 minute mark, widening State’s lead to 62-57.
Jefferson came back in at 8:55 and at the 8:04 mark he was hit with his fifth foul and that was that. In the time Jefferson was on the floor in the second half, Leslie was held scoreless.
What made Jefferson such an attractive prospect coming out of Philadelphia was his length and his ability to effect the game defensively. He was able to use that length to bother Leslie and score around the basket. In addition to his defense, Jefferson finished with 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks while making 5-of-7 from the field.
The pressure is on for Coach K to figure out how and when to use his young forward now that he has let all of us see just what he is capable of.
Jimmy Kelley is the founder and lead writer for Devils in Durham. Follow him on Twitter @jp_kelley