Gritty, tough, humble, hardworking, athletic, college graduate, national champion and McDonald’s All-American. Those are the words that come to mind when describing Philadelphia native and Iowa Wolves forward Amile Jefferson.
Jefferson played high school ball at Friends Central High School then spent five years at Duke University, where he received his master’s degree. He went undrafted this summer and landed in the NBA Summer League with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The former Blue Devil played sparingly in the summer league, only averaging 2.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 11.0 minutes per game. Jefferson, however, showed enough to make it to training camp with the Timberwolves.
Minnesota proceeded to sign Jefferson to a one-year deal on Sept. 18, even though it would be a tall task for the Philadelphia product to make the opening night roster with Gorgui Dieng, Taj Gibson and Karl Anthony-Towns occupying the frontcourt minutes.
Instead of making a tough cut, however, the Timberwolves waived Jefferson on Oct. 14 and eight days later assigned him to their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.
Since assigning Jefferson to Iowa, the 6-foot-9 forward has dominated the competition, averaging a double-double consisting of 16.8 points and 14.4 rebounds in 36.5 minutes per game.
The Friends Central product is having fun on the court and soaking up everything he can learn in the NBA’s minor league.
“For me, it’s been great,” said Jefferson speaking on his overall experience in the G-League. “I’ve been able to learn a lot, develop, get time to play at an elite level against and with guys that have been in the NBA, and that have played in different places.”
Formerly known as the NBA D-League, the G-League is the land of opportunity for many players young and old. It’s a league where young guys can develop their skills and showcase their talents to NBA and international teams, while the older guys on the roster are seen as oracles of the game while still fighting for that last chance to make the league.
In terms of Jefferson, he is in a unique situation in that the Iowa Wolves are a very young team with players like himself getting their first taste of professional basketball and other players such as Perry Jones III and Anthony Brown who have played in the NBA.
“For me, it’s about trying to replicate as much as possible the pace and the physicality in which they play within the NBA. I’m trying to master that and to be able to do that down here at a high level is the first part,” he said.
The young forward also added, “Learning how to rebound every possession, learning how to defend, talk and communicate at a much quicker pace because I think all those things, especially a lot of those things on the defensive end, they can translate.”
This season, Jefferson is doing a solid job on the defensive side of the ball, averaging 10.2 defensive rebounds per game with a defensive rebounding percentage of 30.9 and 106.9 DRtg.
Even though Jefferson has been good on defense, he’s been excellent on offense, shooting 54.5 percent from the field on 12.2 attempts per game. His play earlier on caught the attention of Team USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. In November he was selected to the 12-man FIBA World Cup 2019 Americas qualifier team.
However, despite his early successes as a professional basketball player, Jefferson has not forgotten about his time at Duke or at Friends Central.
“My time at Duke was incredible. I met some of my best friends there, people who are going to be in my life forever and the relationships I built with the coaching staff with coach Mike Krzyzewski, coach Jeff Capel, coach Jon Scheyer and coach Nate James have been unbelievable. They will be in my life for a long time.”
At Duke, Jefferson played in 150 career games (school record), averaged 7.2 points and 3.6 rebounds, and was a part of the 2015 national championship team.
“I’m very honored and humbled to have gone to Duke and represent it the best way I could by winning a national championship, being a part of some amazing teams and playing with a slew of different players,” he said.
Jefferson also shared the same sentiments about his high school, where he had 1,569 points, 839 rebounds, 189 blocks, led them to a 98-14 record, and won four Pennsylvania Independent Schools Tournament titles.
“Friends Central for me was an amazing time and what we did when I was in school was great. We had an amazing coach in Jason Polykoff, some of my best memories. Some of my really close friends came from Friends Central and to be a part of an amazing school with such great people was truly a blessing,” he said.
The humbleness that Jefferson exudes has helped him throughout his basketball journey, where he has had some trials and tribulations due to a couple of injuries in college. However, coming back from those injuries and getting to this point playing in the G-League has only made the Philly native stronger.
“I know the G-League stands for Gatorade and things like that. But I think that this is the grit league,” he said.
Jefferson continued, “For it to be called the G-League, it’s so appropriate. It’s about being gritty, it’s about being able to grind, and it’s about being able to go. All those ‘G’ words consummate what the G-League is all about.”
Looking back at those ‘G’ words, Jefferson has them all and it has helped him from his time in the city of Brotherly Love all the way across the country to Iowa. The G-League is all about the grind, making yourself better and having love for the game.
Jefferson has that love for the game and more, which motivates him every day to be the best player he can be.
“I think it’s the love for the game. I’ve loved this game for a long time and I still do. It’s about maxing out in every aspect of this game that I can.
“Right now, being able to play with the Wolves and be here [Iowa] to get better, develop, become a better player and really just do all the things that are in my power to show that I belong at the next level,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson wants to become that next player to etch his name in the NBA call-up stone next to guys such as Robert Covington, Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside.
He has the right mentality to become a future NBA player and is one of the best examples why the G-League is here to stay.