Duke freshman Amile Jefferson shares his thoughts on his season and the team heading into the game at Miami…
It’s going to be a big game for us in Miami with a lot on the line in the ACC. We are preparing like a team that is 1-1 right now. We’ve been working hard and developing our identity without Ryan.
It’s definitely exciting but I have to be ready. It’s a really good opportunity and now I have to be hungry, excited and ready to do anything I can to help the team win. Ryan does a lot of good things and I have to try to emulate some of those. We have a better chance to win if I can help us get good possessions and give us more energy.
The coaches have been telling me to stay hungry and play with personality. I don’t need to over-think things. I’ve been playing that 4-man role now. I need to be there mentally and come in the game with a lot of excitement. I can rebound and use my quickness all over the court. I can run out to set screens and dive to the basket and just make plays around the basket – whether it’s an offensive rebound, a tip-out, or a kick-out to a shooter. Those are winning plays I like to make.
I’ve learned you have to throw yourself into the game. That means talking, having energy – the little things help you get to the ball faster and make more plays. You come in with that passion and excitement and it will help your game in all facets.
The speed of the game and the season has been the biggest surprise so far. Things move and change quickly and you have to be ready for anything. Whether you play two minutes or 10 minutes or more, you have to come prepared to contribute in any way possible. And I’ve learned the best place to get better is in the practice gym. That time definitely counts. You have to stay focused.
Ryan has really helped me. He has always stayed positive. Whenever he sees me out of position or sees something at practice, he will call me over and let me know – whether it’s to set a screen lower, hit the man and roll — just the little things that made him such a great teammate and player. He has pulled me to the side and showed me the things I can do better.
Mason has done the same. He pulled me aside and told me I gotta bring it. If I do that, we can still be a really good team, just with a different identify. It’s really good that the guys have confidence in me.
I am very excited but I can’t let my enthusiasm translate into fouls or a lack of focus on what I need to do next. Coach Capel was just helping me, showing me clips of all my fouls to help stay out of foul trouble. That comes with knowing the scouting report. Sometimes a missed assignment or delay on what you are supposed to do can lead to a foul. Then you are playing from behind. You can’t have ticky-tac fouls. The first one might seem like nothing, but it creeps up on you. If I am playing well, I want to be in the game and they want me to be in the game.
Our focus as a team is on our new identity and winning. It doesn’t matter who is in – guys have to step up. You can’t be satisfied after making one play. You have to know we have a guy down and we have to pick him up each and every play. When we are out there, we want to play with personality, energy and toughness. That’s what it takes to win.