By LARRY VAUGHT
What does John Calipari like best about 6-7 forward D.J. Jeffries?
“He tells me he likes my demeanor, my body language, the way I play hard and fight all the time,” said Jeffries.
He put all that on display at the Marshall County Hoop Fest Saturday when he scored 35 points and had 11 rebounds and three assists to lead Olive Branch (Miss.) to a 91-74 win over Adair County. He had 25 of his points in the second half after Olive Branch led only 44-41 at halftime.
Jeffries is a top 15 player in the 2019 recruiting class. He got a visit from the Kentucky coach about a week before he came to play in Hoopfest and then Calipari and assistant coach Kenny Payne came to Marshall County to see him play only a few hours after UK beat Harvard in Rupp Arena.
Olive Branch coach Eric Rombaugh said Calipari being at the game did not bother his star player.
“He is used to it and is good at zoning things out. He doesn’t believe the hype or anything like that. He just plays ball,” Rombaugh said. “I think he enjoys the recruiting but he is such a shy kid. He really doesn’t talk about it much.
“He enjoys the process but he doesn’t let it get to him. He is such an extraordinary kid that sometimes he compensates by trying to do more than what he is. But he just doesn’t let the hype get to him. He is going to enjoy the process as it continues and just see where it takes him.”
Kentucky fans did their best to show him how they felt at Hoopfest. He signed autographs and took pictures with fans after his game ended before he left the court and then signed more autographs outside the team’s dressing room. Most of the fans were young fans that Jeffries was happy to interact with for as long as they wanted.
“I was once like them, when I was younger. It feels good to have people looking up to you,” he said. “I tried to put on a good show for the fans. They (UK fans) might see me in a couple of years.”
He said his performance against Adair County was a just “a little tease” for Kentucky fans. He took an unofficial visit to Big Blue Madness in October. He has not taken any other unofficial visits even though he has scholarship offers from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Maryland, Wichita State, Ohio State and others.
“People in Kentucky, they love their basketball team. I feel like that’s something I want to be a part of,” Jeffries said before adding that he was not nearly ready to make a college choice.
Rombaugh said Kentucky fans saw Saturday what Jeffries is capable of doing even against an Adair zone that kept Olive Branch from playing as fast as it wanted.
“We just tried to go inside and make sure he (Jeffries) got a lot of touches. He is too unselfish. If we give him a touch, he will make a good play. He got hot at one point and we just kept going to him,” Rombaugh said.
‘He really does whatever we need him to do. If the game calls for him to go to the block, that’s what he will do. If there is a lot of pressure on us, he does a great job handling the ball to relieve that pressure. He can hit the outside shot. He doesn’t shoot it as much as I would like but he has a very nice shot. There’s not much he can’t do at this level and that will translate to the next level as well.”
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