Whenever a team loses a player of Mason Plumlee’s stature, it leaves a giant pair of shoes for someone to fill. The man that will be asked to fill that role this year for the Duke Blue Devils will be Amile Jefferson.
Jefferson will get the first opportunity to prove himself because of his combination of athleticism and experience. His fellow starters this season will be Quinn Cook at point guard, Rasheed Sulaimon at shooting guard, Rodney Hood at small forward and Jabari Parker at power forward.
Jefferson is a 6-foot-8, 195-pound power forward who is entering his sophomore year with Duke. This will be a big season for him in terms of development, since last year he didn’t get as much time as he might have wanted. That shouldn’t be an issue this season with the graduation of Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, two seniors who played major minutes for the Blue Devils.
Jefferson is a long, athletic power forward. His length and athleticism really helps him get rebounds. The best parts of his game right now are his rebounding and the fact that he hustles all the time. He can bring something to this team, but if he is going to start the whole season he will need to improve at an extremely high rate.
There are a lot of areas in Jefferson’s game that have to improve for him to make more of an impact for this team. First and foremost, he will have to improve his post up game to help with the inside-outside game that Duke likes to play. They need to make teams respect the post so they can space the floor more effectively. He needs to work on his footwork on the offensive side of the court and, hopefully that will help him develop a post up game. He doesn’t really have a go to move in the post, and Duke can’t use him by just dumping it in and letting him play. He won’t be able to get a shot if they just do that. They need to get him moving without the ball and put him in a good situation.
Another crucial part of his game he will have to improve is learning how to defend without fouling. He had immense problems last year guarding in the post without fouling. In the NC State game last year when he had to guard someone, that would get the ball and attack the basket, he only played twelve minutes in the game and yet fouled out. That is something that can’t happen this year because they are not deep at the center position.
Another big reason Jefferson needs to stay out of foul trouble is there will only be two people backing him up. They will have Josh Hairston and Marshall Plumlee backing up Jefferson. This is a problem, because Plumlee hasn’t shown he can stay healthy during a season. He has been hurt in both offseasons he has been a Blue Devil. Hairston is an undersized power forward, but will have to play the center position this year. Hairston will have a big role this year and will have to play big when he is on the court.
Jefferson will have a huge role for this team this year because he is a starter and will be the one that no one knows how well he will play. He will have to prove himself and will have to anchor the paint. Playing the top teams this year and in the NCAA tournament Jefferson will have to play his best basketball for this team to be successful and give this team balance.