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

<p>Amile Jefferson finished his career strong with more than 10 points in seven of Duke's last 11 games.</p>

Amile Jefferson finished his career strong with more than 10 points in seven of Duke's last 11 games.

Amile Jefferson

Season breakdown: One of the Blue Devils' captains yet again, Jefferson continued to be a vocal leader for head coach Mike Krzyzewski's team. With freshmen big men Harry Giles and Marques Bolden injured to start the season, it was Jefferson who controlled the low post for most of the nonconference slate. And even when the highly-touted recruits got healthy, the Philadelphia native did not relinquish his starting spot—he started all 35 of the games he played in, missing just two contests due to a right-foot bone bruise in January and setting the school career record for games played after sitting out most of last season.

As has been the case for his entire career, Jefferson's numbers rose across the board—excluding his redshirt 2015-16 campaign—as he posted career highs in points, rebounds, assists and blocks per game for his four full seasons. The graduate student was just fifth on the team in scoring, but collected 80 more boards than the next closest player for Duke.

The 6-foot-9 forward had a hotter start than anyone could have expected. Jefferson posted double-figure points in 13 of 16 games before suffering a foot injury Jan. 7 against Boston College. Between Nov. 19 and Dec. 10, he recorded six double-doubles in a span of eight contests—including a stellar career-high 24-point, 15-rebound, four-block performance against then-No. 21 Florida at Madison Square Garden. Jefferson also set a career high in boards with 18 against Tennessee State in mid-December.

But things did not go as smoothly down the stretch once Jefferson returned to action Jan. 21 against Miami. He scored double-digit points just once between then and the Blue Devils' Feb. 18 win against Wake Forest as he was slowed by nagging pain that lingered from his foot injury. Fortunately for Duke, he was back to his old self down the stretch—Jefferson tallied more than 10 points in seven of his final 11 contests in a Blue Devil uniform, including scoring 14 points with 15 rebounds in Duke's second-round defeat at the hands of South Carolina.

Results relative to expectations: With the veteran big man coming back to Durham for a fifth season, most Blue Devil fans expected to see the same type of consistency and leadership that Jefferson had provided Duke for the first four years of his collegiate career. In every sense, he did just that—with a young team that featured four freshmen in its primary eight-man rotation, Jefferson gave the Blue Devils an experienced anchor to lean on.

He also improved his free-throw shooting, providing relative comfort at the line in late-game situations, and was a steadying force amidst a mix of weapons that took a long time to jell as a unit. Jefferson is not projected to be selected in this June's NBA Draft, but look for him to continue his basketball career as a professional at some level next season.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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