Amile Jefferson averaged a double-double in his nine games last season and is expected to be a key ...

Duke men's basketball 2016-17 player preview: Amile Jefferson

Amile Jefferson

  • Year: Graduate student
  • Height: 6-foot-9
  • Position: Forward
  • Last year’s statline: 11.4 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.4 APG

Game Breakdown: Prior to his season-ending foot injury last December, Jefferson was on pace for his best season as a Blue Devil. The 6-foot-9 forward received a large increase in minutes after 2014-15 freshmen Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow all decided to take their talents to the NBA. With less talent surrounding him, Jefferson increased his numbers across the board. Most notably, his points per game and rebounds per game jumped to 11.4 and 10.3, respectively, after averaging just 6.1 and 5.8 in those categories during his junior season.

Despite only playing nine games, Jefferson’s senior leadership truly showed as his increased productiveness came with a higher level of efficiency as well. The Philadelphia native converted on an outstanding 68.3 percent of his shot attempts last year. If Jefferson can play like he did against Kentucky last year with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and 15 rebounds in big games, look for him to be a force to be reckoned with on the court.

Role on the Team: Jefferson was forced to increase his production last year after Duke's 2015 national championship team lost more than 70 percent of its scoring to graduation or the NBA. His impact on the team was very evident, and the Blue Devils felt his absence on defense when he got hurt. Duke was a top-10 team before the injury, but the Blue Devils eventually dropped out of the top 25 for the first time since 2007.

With the arrivals of big men freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, a lot of the offensive pressure in the frontcourt will be taken off Jefferson in 2016-17, and he may even step out to play on the wing at times. He will most likely be the anchor down low on defense for a Duke team with a lot of offensive talent. Defense and rebounding are Jefferson’s strengths, and he could prove to be one of the best big men in the ACC this season.

NBA Comparison: Jefferson can be compared to forward Julius Randle of the Los Angeles Lakers. In his first full season in the NBA last year, Randle did two things effectively—crash the boards and put up points. On a Lakers team without a lot of depth, Randle anchored them down low last season, averaging 11.3 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per contest. Through nine games this season, the former Kentucky big man has also improved his field-goal percentage to 56.7 percent. If Jefferson can continue to rebound and play defense like he did in short time he played last season, look for him to find his niche at the next level.

Projected stats: 7.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.3 APG

Thanks for following The Blue Zone for our men's basketball player preview series. Previous players previewed include Jack White, Javin DeLaurier, Frank Jackson, Marques Bolden, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Justin Robinson, Antonio Vrankovic, Chase Jeter, Luke Kennard, Sean Obi, Grayson Allen and Matt Jones. Make sure to stay with The Blue Zone and The Chronicle for coverage throughout the 2016-17 season.

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