A Philly kid, Duke's Amile Jefferson ready to take the next step

A Philly kid, Duke's Amile Jefferson ready to take the next step

CAMDEN, N.J. — Leadership, toughness, and a Philly kid.

Those were the words used by Sixers vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley to describe Duke's Amile Jefferson — one of six prospects the team brought to its training facility Monday morning for possibly the last of its group workouts prior to Thursday's draft.

Although Jefferson's name has flown well under the radar — especially compared to fellow Blue Devils Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Harry Giles — the 6-foot-9 forward's booming voice echoed throughout the gym during 3-on-3 scrimmages, and his presence was certainly felt by those in attendance.

DraftExpress, along with pretty much every other mock draft, has yet to put Jefferson among those selected. In fact, the Friends' Central alum isn't even on their top 100 prospects list.

But the 2015 national champion and four-time All-ACC academic team honoree certainly has the pedigree to develop further and ultimately make it as a professional.

"It's amazing ... just to be here and see that Sixers shirt and have that feeling after growing up watching Allen Iverson and Aaron McKie," Jefferson said. "Just being able to come back and have this opportunity for the team that I loved growing up was nothing short of amazing."

The Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year in both his junior and senior seasons at the Wynnewood, Pa., private school, Jefferson made a name for himself on the Philly basketball scene. ESPN had him ranked as the No. 25 high school prospect when he graduated in 2012 and headed to Durham to join Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's perennial powerhouse. 

And despite playing alongside a number of NBA-level guys like Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor, it wasn't until his senior season that Jefferson began to fully emerge as the player many thought he could be. Yes, Jefferson was always a leader, but in the first nine games of the 2015-16 season, he averaged a double-double (11.4 points and 10.3 boards per game) until a right foot fracture forced him to redshirt the remainder of the season.

Jefferson, a guy many would describe as the consummate team player, returned to Duke for a fifth year and picked right back up where he left off. He led Duke in both rebounds and blocks and helped the Blue Devils put together four wins in four days for a title at the 2017 ACC Tournament.

His numbers have never been flashy, but neither is Jefferson.

"In the NBA, I'm a guy that can really rebound," he said. "I can play a lot of positions — especially guard a lot of different positions. I bring a grit, leadership, being vocal. I'm a worker and I'm a player. I think I can do a lot of things, both offensively and defensively."

"The league is getting smaller and being able to guard two through five, those are ways I think I can really get in and help a team."

At times, it's hard to see where Jefferson fits into the NBA game. He's definitely a tweener with his 6-9, 225-pound frame, and although his rebounding skills match up with almost any player in this year's class, his shooting touch does not fit that of a four in the modern pro game. Jefferson never attempted a three-pointer in his college career and is just a 57.5 percent shooter from the charity stripe.

On the other hand, though, he's a leader. The only three-time captain in Duke history, Jefferson seemingly garnered praise from his Blue Devil teammates every time out. And when he was forced to the bench for much of the 2015-16 season, you could always hear Jefferson's deep tenor from the Duke bench.

For all of the Blue Devils who have gone at the top of the draft in recent years, there have also been the journeymen like Seth Curry and Quinn Cook who have had to play their way through the D-League onto an NBA roster. So whether or not Jefferson's name is called Thursday in Brooklyn, don't expect him to fade away anytime soon.

"[My best asset is] just being a player, using all the tools you've learned over my career to help you and guide you through this process," Jefferson said. "It's been an amazing one and I appreciate everyone who's given me the opportunity."

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart heard his name called, while Villanova teammate Kris Jenkins did not.

Hart snuck into the first round of Thursday night's NBA draft, going 30th overall to the Utah Jazz. However, the Wildcat is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, via a trade.

While Jenkins went undrafted, it looks like he'll have a shot with an NBA team. Jenkins will join the Washington Wizards this offseason to compete for a roster spot, according to a report by NBA.com's David Aldridge.

After winning the national title as a junior with Villanova, Hart collected plenty of accolades in a standout senior season. The 6-foot-5 wing was named a consensus first-team All-American, Big East Player of the Year and took home the Julius Erving award as the top small forward in the country.

For the 32-4 Wildcats, Hart, a Silver Spring, Maryland native, averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, while shooting 40.4 percent from three-point range.

"I'm my biggest critic," he said last week after a pre-draft workout for the Sixers. "I drive myself as much as I can. I demand perfection from myself."

As Hart travels west, Jenkins, on the other hand, will head home for his NBA opportunity. The 6-foot-6 forward, beloved for his buzzer-beating three-pointer to win Villanova its 2016 national championship, is from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He worked out for the Wizards in early June. He also worked out for the Sixers on Tuesday.

"It's a blessing," he said after his session with the Wizards, via the Washington Post. "You always root for the hometown team, you always want them to do well. Honestly it's humbling to be in this position, to grow up in this area, to have some games here and play college ball here and then come back and work out for the Wizards."

After flirting with the NBA draft process following their title-winning season, both Hart and Jenkins decided to return to school for their senior campaigns.

They both took to Twitter on Thursday night following the draft — Hart in excitement, Jenkins more in a humorous manner.

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

CAMDEN, N.J. — You don't have to do much research on Markelle Fultz to find his perceived shortcomings.

Washington finished 9-22 his only season there. Draft experts also questioned his effort, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

None of that concerned the Sixers when they made him the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night (see story).

"One of the weaknesses was, 'Does he bring it every night defensively? Did he have that killer instinct?'" Sixers head coach Brett Brown said following the pick. "I think if you take a high character person and you take an athlete, you have the foundation to coach him to be an elite defender."

There isn't much question about Fultz's offensive game. The 19-year-old guard averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in his only season with the Huskies. He also shot an impressive 41.3 percent from three-point range.

His skill set as a shooter and scorer seems to complement the skills of franchise centerpieces Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. With his selection, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is hoping the Sixers can start to build a winning culture.

But does Fultz's nine-win season at Washington concern him at all?

"You look at every aspect of evaluating a prospect," Colangelo said. "We've dug very deep on this and we feel that regardless of whatever the performance of the University of Washington Huskies was last year, it's not relevant to who Markelle represents, what he represents as a player, and how he is going to fit in and help us turn this program around."

Fultz took an interesting path to being the No. 1 pick. He didn't make the varsity team at famed DeMatha High School in Maryland as a sophomore (see story). A growth spurt helped bring more attention to his game.

He chose Washington because of the relationship he had developed with its coaching staff. He also thought he'd have the opportunity to play with sophomores Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray. Instead, both players were surprise one-and-dones and Fultz was forced to carry the team on his shoulders.

"He wasn't always considered the best prospect, but he emerged and earned the right to be the best prospect," Colangelo said. "You're talking about a young man who goes to the University of Washington, didn't have great team success. Unfortunately, part of that may be personnel driven, part of that may be circumstantial.

"To do what he did at the level of the Pac-12 and to be able to average 23 points a game, six rebounds and six assists. You're talking, again, about great performance on the floor, a player that does so many different things and we believe someone that's going to help make his teammates better. "

Colangelo mentioned that Fultz "has the tools" to become an excellent defender. Fultz stands at 6-foot-4 with an impressive 6-foot-10 span. He also has plenty of athleticism and strength to compete defensively against NBA ones and twos.

Brown acknowledged that defense could be the biggest hole in Fultz's game, but feels like he could get the most out of Fultz on the defensive end.

"I think that down deep he understands the knock against him and I believe that when we get him with our program, he understands how we see the world here," Brown said. "It's gonna be an evolution, no doubt. But it's a willing defensive player and it's a willing athlete, a gifted athlete under a roof of a quality person. I think having those types of qualities lets you have a far better chance to mold him into the type of defensive player we need here."