As the NBA Draft quickly approaches, the forgotten men are often the ones who have their degrees. They are the seniors who are cast away as supposedly too old and too mature to be groomed in the Association.
In the past three years, the number of seniors have declined—both the first round and the Draft overall, with last year boasting a mere three senior first-round selections (CJ McCollom, Mason Plumlee and Solomon Hill). Interestingly, drafted college seniors did represent three of the top-16 vote getters for the 2014 NBA All-Rookie Team.
SLAM huddled up with one of this year’s senior Draft hopefuls, Baylor University’s Cory Jefferson to discuss the senior stigma and his path to the NBA Draft. At the time, Jefferson had worked out for Chicago, Houston, Phoenix and Milwaukee with workouts with Philadelphia, Dallas and the Los Angeles Clippers upcoming.
“I disagree with the negative view toward drafting college seniors. Everyone’s path is different. I arrived to Baylor at 170 pounds and I had to gain weight and get stronger to play at the college level. That year, I learned a lot from guys like Mamadou Diene and Quincy Acy,” Jefferson told SLAM.
“Every day in practice was a lesson. I had to wait my turn behind standout frontcourt players, Ekpe Udoh, Perry Jones, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, all currently in the NBA. I didn’t really get regular minutes until my junior year, but that helped me mature and it showed my patience. That is something a senior can show that a freshman can not.”
Jefferson has been working on his back-to-basket moves and shooting consistency during his pre-Draft training. Another focal point has been improving his endurance. He is an upside candidate who looks to provide a team energy, rebounding, transition baskets and a mid-range game from the forward position.
He is one of roughly 20 seniors who have a realistic opportunity to be drafted this month. He vows “to be patient and keep working hard, awaiting my opportunity.” That’s been his recipe of success so far and it’s worked out just fine.
Here’s more from the Baylor star…
SLAM: This was an interesting season at Baylor. Enough said.
CJ: Our season goal was to make the title game and we came up short. There was a time when we lost five in a row in conference play and people thought we wouldn’t make the postseason. The coaches and players never panicked, we kept it together and figured it out and ended up having a great season.
SLAM: How did you manage to stay focused during the season, with the adversity and wondering about your future?
CJ: There were certainly pulls during the year. You battle through tough losses wondering how is it going to affect my NBA chances. I had to push back those thoughts and stay focused on my role for the team and helping the team win. Figuring that I’ll worry about the NBA later, winning would be the best resume builder.
SLAM: Any player that you try to emulate your game after?
CJ: Perhaps, Taj Gibson. I watch a lot of film on forwards such as a young Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge and try to pick up something from each of them.
SLAM: Finish this sentence: Baylor head coach Scott Drew is…
CJ: Energetic, always on the move, exciting to be around, charismatic.
SLAM: Toughest player you have played against?
CJ: Tie: CJ Fair and Julius Randle.
SLAM: What is your get-hype song?
CJ: “Nightmare and Dreams” by Meek Mill.