Hoop Summit: Al Jefferson
Center Al Jefferson is beginning to look more like a power forward with his improved conditioning and expanding skills.
The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Jefferson only played 21 minutes in the Hoop Summit game due to two early fouls, but he put up some significant numbers during his time on the court. He finished with 13 points on 5 of 11 shooting while missing his one three point attempt and hitting 3 of 4 from the line. Along with Josh Smith, he led the USA team in rebounding with 6 boards. He also blocked a shot and collected a steal.
The most notable aspect of Jefferson is his physical presence. He was the only USA player on the court with the body mass to match up with 6-foot-11, 275-pound Michael Schroeder of Germany. At the same time Jefferson’s conditioning has improved tremendously. When RivalsHoops.com got a very good look at Jefferson during last summer’s Nike Camp, he displayed plenty of skill. However, he struggled at times in transition, did most of his work with his back to the basket, and did not have a lot of elevation. This was not the case in the Hoop Summit game.
Jefferson moved well, never lagging behind the pack. His perimeter shot looked very good out to the college three point line during the pre-game shoot around. In the game, he looked very comfortable facing the basket. And Jefferson exploded above the rim many times for rebounds and on finishes off of solid post moves.
The highlight of his performance was when he caught the ball on the left block against 7-foot-1, 230-pound Yi Jian Lian of China and proceeded to fake baseline, drop step middle, and with one dribble throw it down with terrifying force Lian. If analyst Bill Walton saw the play, he might still be saying, “throw it down big man, throw it down.”
Being the oldest player on the USA squad at 19 years of age, Jefferson has the build of a man. Along with his size, his raw skill, and his enormous hands, I cannot help but think of a future Chris Webber when watching Jefferson play, and it looks like he will be playing with or against Webber sooner than later.