Duke’s national championship hopes could rest on the right foot of its senior, Amile Jefferson. And those hopes aren’t getting more optimistic by the day.
The workmanlike power forward went down with a broken foot in mid-December and hasn’t returned since. Jefferson is an important piece for Duke’s identity on defense and its rebounding efficiency. In recent weeks, speculation has increased over whether Jefferson could get healthy enough in time to return for this season. He still has the option to take a medical redshirt and return for next year. But Duke’s roster will be absolutely stacked then, and who’s to say the Blue Devils will have a better chance next March than this one to get back to a Final Four? It’s a really tough call.
Then again, maybe it won’t be … because Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski is now, for the first time, speaking publicly about the possibility that Jefferson simply won’t be healthy in time to play in March. The redshirt might become mandatory.
From the News & Observer’s Laura Keeley:
“He cannot run fluidly,” Krzyzewski said of Jefferson. “It’s just something he’s got. You can’t push off that thing. Laterally, he goes pretty good. And that’s just not in a game, so you’re worried about that.”
A redshirt would allow him to play next year alongside Harry Giles, the No. 1 incoming recruit.
“If he doesn’t (return this year), then we would hope to bring him back next year and put in for a redshirt,” Krzyzewski said. “We have to make a decision here quick. Well, it hasn’t been quick. At all. We have to make a decision.”
Jefferson has been doing light work in Duke’s practices in recent weeks, but yeah, this is not promising. Plus, consider the reality of returning to game speed. Jefferson’s body will likely not be fully ready to hop right back into action without some readaptation.
Duke finishes its regular season this weekend with a home game against UNC. Then the ACC tournament next week. The Blue Devils are currently slotted as a 4 seed by Jerry Palm in the latest bracketology outlook.