First in a series of profiles spotlighting Friends Central School hoops stars.
It was a summer league game in Cincinnati and Amile Jefferson’s team was getting hammered. Each attempt to get the ball over halfcourt was an adventure. An errant pass. A steal by the opposing team. Booting the ball out of bounds.
No one had to tell him—Jefferson just knew, and reacted. There was no prompting. Something had to be done, and he was going to do it. Jefferson, the tallest player on the floor, the center who counts on other players to feed him the ball, wanted the ball. That’s right—he would play point guard.
Declaring his own form of independence, suddenly his team no longer had an issue getting the ball over halfcourt.
But here’s the real story of that summer league game in Cincinnati: Amile Jefferson was in seventh grade at the time.
You could say the 6-foot-8, 195-pound senior power forward has been taking control of games ever since. He’s coming off an astounding junior year in which he led the Phoenix in scoring, averaging 19.5 points and pulling down a team-high 11 rebounds a game.
He’s entering his senior year as the best player in Southeastern Pennsylvania and one of the most prized recruits in the nation, ranked as the country’s No. 9 recruit by ESPN.com, MaxPreps.com, Scouts, Rivals—you name it. His list of college suitors includes Villanova, Temple, Maryland, North Carolina State, Connecticut, Ohio State and Harvard.
While Jefferson finds himself in the position as one of the most coveted power forwards in the nation, it has not been through happenstance. He’s consistently consistent. Think Tim Duncan on a high school level, not flashy by any means, but a player who is fundamentally sound and does everything well. That’s Jefferson’s game. His talent was forged by dedication, attention to detail and a never-ending desire to win.
That, above all else, is what has catapulted Jefferson to the most-wanted lists of Villanova’s Jay Wright, Temple’s Fran Dunphy, Maryland’s Mark Turgeon and Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun.
Jefferson furthered his cause by his performance in the NBA Players’ Association Top 100 Camp a few weeks ago, when he led the nation’s top players in scoring, averaging 20 points a game. He’s a solid inside scorer, he’s developing a mid-range game, and he’s a tenacious defender, someone not afraid to get his hands dirty doing all of the nasty under-the-basket chores like blocking shots and rebounding.
All for something that often gets overlooked in today’s high school landscape—winning.
“I think that’s the way I’ve always been,” Jefferson said. “Some players may have to look at the scorebook to see what they’ve done. All I need to do is look up at the scoreboard. If we won, and I know I did something to help my team win, that’s good for me. I think it’s why I don’t get too caught up in where I’m ranked and what these scouting services and the media outlets say.
“I know if Friends Central keeps winning and my summer teams keep winning, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’ve always looked at it that way.”
Buoyed by Jefferson, the Phoenix have won two-straight Friends Schools League championships, three-straight Pennsylvania Independent School state titles, and more importantly away from Friends School, three-straight Donofrio League championships, including a victory over NBA first-pick Kyrie Irving’s team in last year’s championship game.
“What makes Amile special is he is so fundamentally sound in every aspect of the game,” said Lamont Peterson, a former assistant coach at Memphis familiar with the prime talent in the Philadelphia area. “Amile is very smart and he makes the right play consistently. He’s a McDonald’s All-American—no matter how you look at it, he’ll be playing in that game.”
Peterson credits Jefferson’s development to his father, Malcolm Musgrove, who saw big, early potential in Amile’s progression.
“One of my first inclinations about Amile came in Cincinnati when Amile’s seventh-grade team played up against eighth graders,” recalled Musgrove, who played at Delaware State and is now the vice president of a behavioral health company. “The eighth-grade team was giving Amile’s team a hard time bringing the ball up, and without a coach, without anyone saying anything to him, Amile felt a change needed to be made and he made it.
“He was the tallest player on the court and he became the point guard. That right there said this kid gets it, to me, that if he continues in this direction, he’s going to be pretty special.”
Special, on and off the court. Jefferson carries a 3.4 GPA at the demanding, highly academic Friends Central. You may not encounter a more comfortable, well-adjusted young man.
“That’s a credit to his family,” Peterson said. “He’s even-tempered on the court, respectful, and it all translates to success in everything else Amile does.”
Right now what’s swirling around Jefferson is a ton of speculation as to where he’ll go to college. Jefferson wants to take his time, be patient with the process and make sure his choice is the right one.
In the meantime, Amile will continue to improve and … “We like to say Amile is not sexy, he’s efficient and just being efficient is what he wants to be,” his father said.
“He’s an efficient winner. I haven’t beaten him in a game of Scrabble in two years.”