Standout basketball forward D.J. Jeffries of Olive Branch must love the color blue.
Jeffries, who last week led his Conquistadors to the first state boys’ championship ever won by a DeSoto County school, has been representing the Navy Blue, Gold and White of Olive Branch High School and will do so again next season as a senior.
Monday afternoon, Jeffries made public his decision to trade those colors in for Kentucky Blue and White as he committed to play for the Wildcats and coach John Calipari.
Looming, however, is the possibility that Kentucky Blue and White might become Memphis Blue and White, although Jeffries said right now he is all in for Big Blue Nation.
After filming an announcement video the DeSoto Times-Tribune was allowed to witness, Jeffries, the MVP of Friday night’s MHSAA 5A state championship victory over Forest Hill, took to Twitter to let the world know where he wanted to go.
Jeffries also answered questions about the commitment with the Times-Tribune before he filmed the video.
“I chose Kentucky because they had been the most active in recruiting me and making me feel wanted,” Jeffries, ranked Mississippi’s top player in the Class of 2019, said. “They made a good connection with my family and that was a big thing with me, so that was where I wanted to go.”
In the state finals, Jeffries led the Quistors with 20 points and five rebounds, playing every minute of the final contest.
Calipari, in particular, had been especially active in recruiting Jeffries. The Kentucky coach saw the young star as many as four times during the past season, including his appearance in Jackson last week to watch Jeffries and the Quistors defeat Callaway 71-50 in the state semifinals at Mississippi Coliseum.
“They just won an SEC championship and have won the past couple of years and I want to be a part of that and hopefully win a national championship,” Jeffries said. “He (Calipari) has got a good resume of getting kids out of college after one year and that’s what I want to do.”
The Olive Branch standout had a strong state tournament, scoring 20 points and five rebounds in the Callaway win and he fashioned a 22-point, 11-rebound double-double in the Quistors’ 93-51 dismantling of Wayne County in the quarterfinals.
The Kentucky coach and the Wildcats have become a program known for moving players on before graduation and Jeffries admitted he wants to tap into that stream. While he has promised his family that he will complete his schooling at some point, his plan is to play one year at Kentucky and look at playing at a higher level after that.
“My plan is to go one-and-done,” Jeffries said. “I just want to be there for one year and do what I can for one year and then come back and finish my education. My family wants me to finish, so I promised them that.”
The other question that remains for Jeffries is if he would actually ink the scholarship offer with the Wildcats when the time comes.
Jeffries has played for Penny Hardaway’s successful “Team Penny” EYBL program and with Hardaway linked by many as a possible replacement as Memphis basketball coach Tubby Smith was let go by the Tigers Wednesday, Jeffries admitted that if Hardaway, currently the head coach at Memphis East High, was named to lead Memphis, he would have to look at that.
“For right now, I am set on Kentucky,” Jeffries said. “If Coach Hardaway gets the job, it’s something I would consider, but for right now I’m all in for Kentucky.”
That means while this step is completed, Jeffries and Calipari will have more conversations between them as signing day nears. Right now, D.J. said he’s pretty well set on wearing Kentucky Blue.
“My dream as a kid has been to play for Coach Cal and once he offered me (a scholarship) my mind was set but I didn’t want to jump on it too quick,” said Jeffries. “I was trying to enjoy the process but after the state championship game I thought I might as well just go ahead and commit and get all the stress over with.”
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.