How good can Big Al be in NBA?

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

If you just learned this week who Al Jefferson is, either of two rebuttals is in order:

4High school basketball in Mississippi is rather interesting and worth following.

4It’s a miracle you came out of that four-year coma.

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This week the 6-10, 260-pound Prentiss star officially snubbed the University of Arkansas for the NBA when he was drafted in the first round by the Boston Celtics as the 15th overall selection.

But it came to no surprise to many, particularly since Big Al put up numbers that some kids may just dream about &045; he averaged 42 points and 18 rebounds this past season.

That’s just his average.

It’s numbers like those that got the attention of the NBA and that sound comparable to Dennis Rodman, who could turn in nights of 50 points and 30 rebounds at Division II Southeastern Oklahoma State &045; days before he decided to, uhm, express himself with about 100 tattoos, a wedding dress and hair colors only a volunteer assistant could love.

Jefferson isn’t the lanky Rodman, but the Prentiss star is a strong rebounder, has good hands and can shoot the jumper from 10 to 15 feet out.

&uot;It didn’t surprise me,&uot; said Jefferson County head coach Marcus Walton, whose Tigers matched up twice against Prentiss in 2002-03. &uot;Al is one of the most dominant big men ever to come out of Mississippi in recent years. The draft is based on potential. Knowing the things he does now and his potential, there’s no telling how good Al is going to be.&uot;

The big man got plenty of press leading up to the draft and last season when just flat dominated. His stock seemed to rise a bit as the draft got closer and word started to spread.

The talent level in this year’s NBA Draft was down from last year and years past, which may have been a benefit to Big Al. In a draft that’s become more geared toward raw talent &045; more high schoolers and foreign-born players were picked in the first round than ever before &045; it proved the draft is about projection and development than playing right away.

And with the Big Al’s stature and ability, it may not be long before he jumps right in after he improved big time as a senior.

&uot;He was way more conditioned this year than the past couple of years,&uot; Walton said. &uot;You couldn’t put together a scouting report to stop him. If you front him, they’d throw it over your head. If you played behind him, he’d shoot a jumper.&uot;

It was during that junior season the Tigers were able to beat Prentiss when Big Al matched up against JC big man Juan Wyatt, who was a senior and now at Alcorn. The Tigers held Jefferson under 30 points &045; the only team to do so that year &045; before Prentiss won a state title.

But different from high school, Big Al will likely play the power forward position. We’ll find out in three or four seasons how good he can be.

&uot;Being the 15th pick overall, that’s an award in itself,&uot; Walton said. &uot;This is the National Basketball Association we’re talking about. Hopefully he’ll develop into a Tim Duncan-type of player.&uot;

Adam Daigle

is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at (601) 445-3632 or by e-mail at