Cory Jefferson, 6-foot-9 power forward, Baylor
2013-14 stats: 13.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, .500 field goal percentage
Overshadowed by former NBA picks Quincy Miller, Ekpe Udoh, Perry Jones, Pierre Jackson and Quincy Acy, as well as fellow current draft hopeful Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson steadily improved during his college career. Working against the fifth-year senior, however, is the perception that he doesn’t have as high of a ceiling, due to his relatively advanced age of 23, but his blue-collar skill set should translate well into being a role player on the next level. The fact that Jefferson is known for his work ethic and has already thrived when not being his team’s focal point, unlike the majority of his counterparts, should also help him make a somewhat seamless transition to the professional ranks.
Career highlights: A low-profile local recruit, Jefferson received scant playing time as a freshman, redshirted the following season and then returned to being a role player, playing behind some of the aforementioned future pros. But last season, his junior year on the court, he broke out, notching nine double-doubles and leading Baylor to the NIT championship behind averages of 13.3 points, eight rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game, along with remarkable 61 percent shooting from the field. As a senior, Jefferson had even more expectations entering the campaign and put up very similar numbers—13.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, on 50 percent shooting—while attempting to expand his offensive repertoire and facing increased defensive attention, albeit during a more successful season for the team, posting 14 double-doubles and earning third team all-Big 12 Conference honors in the process.
Strengths: Jefferson is a high-level athlete, who uses his quickness, leaping ability and motor to make an impact on both ends of the court, whether running the floor in transition, making weak-side blocks or hustling for offensive rebounds. He’s a fairly limited scorer, but has developed a handful of go-to post-up moves and is capable of knocking down open mid-range jumpers. Building up what was once a very slender frame upon entering college, he’s willing to bang in the paint, yet possesses the agility to help defensively on the perimeter.
Weaknesses: Although Jefferson has worked hard to add refinement to his game, he is still more of a raw talent than a polished finished product. Offensively, his effectiveness decreased as he attempted to diversify his game and on the defensive end, it appears that he excels more in making plays off his athleticism and instinct than in always being in good position to help or shutting down his man. As much progress as Jefferson has made in his skill development, he can struggle when utilized in a role that makes him more than a role player.
Draft projection: Jefferson should join some of his former teammates (Acy, Jackson, Miller and likely Austin) as a second-round pick, bringing maturity, character and habits to any roster. His role is pretty clear-cut: Jefferson will be a high-energy type and assuming he can find a niche for himself on both ends of the floor, he can parlay whatever playing time he receives early in his career into a long tenure as a role-playing reserve of some value. But while he’s a relatively safe pick, it will be crucial for him to make an impact early on, as his age won’t lead teams to believe his upside is high enough to warrant waiting on gradual development, particularly with younger players on his heels and proven veterans having established their worth.