How Cory Jefferson’s Ambition Earned Him An NBA Contract

Duje Dukan, Cory Jefferson
Cory Jefferson at Baylor last season. (AP)
Duje Dukan, Cory Jefferson
Cory Jefferson at Baylor last season. (AP)

Nets forward Cory Jefferson had to wait longer than any draftee before hearing his name called on draft night, going 60th overall to the San Antonio Spurs before the Nets acquired his rights. But if you believe Jefferson’s college coach, he could have saved himself a lot of waiting.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew shined an interesting light on the process on draft night, noting that Jefferson had the talent to go earlier, but teams wanted him to promise he’d play overseas. He refused.

In an interview on August 25th, Jefferson confirmed that he was worried he wouldn’t get drafted. “There was a point during the draft where I was telling teams that I didn’t want to be drafted because they wanted to send me straight overseas,” Jefferson said in an interview with The Sports Crave.

Had Jefferson gone overseas, the team that drafted him would have retained his NBA rights without having to give him a contract. But Jefferson declined, taking a risk and waiting for a team that would give him a chance right away.

How high could Jefferson have been drafted? Ken Berger of CBS reported on draft day that the Nets’ East River rivals considered him with the 34th pick.

The Knicks ended up drafting Cleanthony Early, but if Jefferson intrigued Zen Master Phil Jackson that early in the second round, it’s not hard to believe a few more teams between 34 and 60 checked in on the Baylor product’s interest in a draft-and-stash agreement.

His NBA motivation worked out: Jefferson shined in five summer league game, averaging 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, shooting 70% from the field. Now, he’s got a two-year (albeit non-guaranteed) contract on the table with the Nets.

Jefferson averaged 13.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game on a 50%/37%/64% shooting line in his last college season in Waco.

(h/t Our Daily Bears)