Hot On The Trail of Amile Jefferson
Over the last few weeks, Syracuse’s interest in Philadelphia forward Amile Jefferson has heated up noticeably. When I first heard of SU’s involvement, I was a little surprised due to the fact that Jefferson’s size is very similar to Jerami Grant, who recently verbaled to Syracuse. On the surface, the physical tools are similar with both being around 6’7 and coming just shy of 200 pounds. Once I checked out some video and read some of the scouting reports that are out there, though, it became clear that Jefferson’s skill set is very different. I won’t draw up a Venn diagram, but I’ll simply state that while they look similar, Grant projects as more of a swingman in the Kris Joseph mold while Jefferson is building towards becoming a true power forward. While SU’s frontcourt is gaining some traction nationally, there are still a couple holes looking forward that Jefferson could fill.
Those who read me here know that I’m a little bearish on Syracuse’s ability to score from the post, this season as well as beyond. For the last several years, the team has flourished with back-to-the-basket weapons, whether it was Rick Jackson or Arinze Onuaku. When the Orange was missing NCAA Tournaments, it was largely because Donte’ Greene rarely created his own shot inside and Terrence Roberts struggled to find a groove offensively the year before. With Rick Jackson gone, there isn’t anyone on the current team who has demonstrated a reliable back-to-the-basket game. The point here is that when SU struggled in the middle of the last decade, the gaping hole was the lack of a formidable inside presence. I reserve the right to change my opinion based on what I see this season, and this year’s team is too talented in the other areas to suffer the same fate of sweating it out and coming up short on Selection Sunday, but I’ll welcome positively just about any news of SU being involved with anyone who can show off a few moves in the paint.
Outside of his skill set, the thing I like most about the scouting reports on Amile Jefferson is that they all mention his high intelligence on the floor. All indications point to him possessing an advanced sense of awareness, which would be a breath of fresh air. Even though the Orange notched its lowest turnover rate in seven years last season, there were still lapses in judgment that didn’t always make it to the turnover column.
There’s also the matter of Hakim Warrick getting involved. Jefferson and Warrick went to the same high school, and Syracuse has had some very marketable success working with Philadelphia products. It’s probably because I didn’t grow up in a city with an NBA team*, but I really enjoy how the League’s work stoppage has led to players becoming more involved with their schools through exhibition games and the like. If the rumors that Carmelo Anthony will be in the house this Friday for Midnight Madness are true, it would make for a recruiting advantage that would be very hard for competing schools to top.
*Before the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and renamed themselves, the closest teams to me were the Bulls and Mavericks, each about an eight-hour drive away. The Nuggets were the next closest at nearly ten hours.
The only real concern when it comes to Syracuse recruiting Jefferson isn’t with the player himself, but rather with SU’s scholarship scenario. Syracuse has two players set to exhaust their last season of eligibility in Joseph and Jardine, and with Grant on board, only one scholarship for the 2012-13 season remains. Many figure that it’s been set aside for Dajuan Coleman, which presents a little bit of a crunch in the numbers game. Maybe Dion Waiters has a tremendous season and leaves to pursue a pro career (or he comes to the same decision after repeated clashes with Jim Boeheim), opening up an extra scholarship. A less likely scenario involves Fab Melo realizing his star potential and goes pro; Perhaps it’s more feasible that Melo’s short temper and attitude concerns lead to him falling out of favor with the coaching staff to the point where it doesn’t make sense for him to stay, but that’s nothing more than speculation at this point.
The bottom line is that under the current circumstances, there isn’t room for both Jefferson and Coleman. However, we do know that Coleman is planning to make a decision in early November, so assuming he doesn’t change his timeline, the picture should sharpen sooner rather than later and it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out.