Jeffries to Leave Indiana for NBA

Monday, April 8th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ Jared Jeffries hoped he would get an opportunity to one day play in the NBA. On Monday, he made certain he'd get that chance.

Jeffries, a 6-foot-10 sophomore forward who helped lead Indiana to the NCAA championship game, added his name to the NBA draft, forgoing his final two years of college eligibility.

``All my life, I've had two dreams. My first dream was to hear my name called on graduation day, the second was to hear my name called for the NBA draft,'' Jeffries said. ``I never could have imagined that I would get a chance to play NBA basketball so early.''

Jeffries was the Big Ten's player of the year and a second-team All-American. He led the Hoosiers in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.0 points and 7.6 rebounds.

Jeffries dismissed any possibility of pulling his name out of the draft. Players can withdraw until June 19 if they do not sign with an agent. Jeffries said his decision was final _ and that he would likely choose an agent in the next few days.

Jeffries has been projected as a top-15 pick in the June draft. He consulted with NBA team officials in the past week, but declined to say how high he expected to be drafted.

The 20-year-old Jeffries demonstrated his ability to play both inside and outside during the Hoosiers' improbable tournament run, which ended with a loss to Maryland in the national championship game.

Jeffries, working down low, had 24 points and 15 rebounds in the Hoosiers upset of top-ranked Duke. Two games later, with Tom Coverdale slowed by a sprained left ankle, Jeffries showed the ability of a point guard, occasionally running the fast break.

Questions remain whether Jeffries is strong enough to play in the NBA. He bulked up to 215 pounds this year after working out last summer with some of the Indiana Pacers.

``Is anybody ready for the NBA?'' said Jeffries' father, Tom. ``The answer is no he is not ready. But he will get ready and with the right work ethic, he will be ready.''

Indiana Coach Mike Davis was ill and did not attend Jeffries' announcement.

In a statement released by Indiana, Davis said he supported Jeffries' decision.

``This a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I know that Jared will make the best of it,'' Davis said. ``I plan to keep in touch with him throughout his career and he knows that I am always here if he ever needs me. It was a pleasure to have coached him for two seasons.''

Jeffries' decision to enter the draft was widely expected. He considered leaving last season after being named the Big Ten's freshman of the year. However, his parents persuaded him to stay in school.

Jeffries and his father spent the weekend fishing in Tennessee while they discussed the decision.

``It is about a dream of mine, it is not a hardship case,'' Jeffries said. ``It's a dream I have to play against the best basketball players. It's mostly for myself because I have a chance to play.''

Jeffries becomes the fourth Indiana player to enter the NBA draft early, following Isiah Thomas, Jay Edwards and Kirk Haston, who left last year after his junior season.

Jeffries said he promised his mother he would earn his college degree, as an example for his younger brother, and ``looked forward'' to the day he greeted his mother _ degree in hand.

``I'd love to see him in stay in school, but that is for selfish reasons,'' Cecelia Jeffries said.

Jeffries said he had not spoken with Davis in the 48 hours before announcing his future intentions although he acknowledged telling Davis how he was leaning last Wednesday.

``My hunger or desire really was there to win a national title,'' he said. ``But Jason Williams also had a desire to win the title and they happened to get beat. So when you have that opportunity, you have to look at it and go forward.''

Jeffries, Indiana's high school Mr. Basketball in 2000, finishes his college career with 999 points, falling one point short of becoming the fifth player in Indiana history to score 1,000 points in his first two seasons. He averaged 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in two years.

``This last year has been one of the best years of my life,'' he said. ``I think Jarrad Odle, Dane Fife and I can leave Indiana basketball with our heads held high.''