BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW
When Jim Jefferson made the Laurentian University men?s basketball team in 1999/2000, the team captured the OUA championship and went to the national championship.
Now, four seasons later and in his fifth and final year, Valley East?s Jefferson is looking to go out on a high note, which he hopes results in another trip to the national championships.
Last season, Jefferson had an off year, struggling with injuries. Prior to that, he made the all-star teams and put up big points on the board. Now he faces a daunting challenge, helping his team achieve more glory, something the men?s team hasn?t tasted in awhile.
It will not be an easy task. As one of the team captains, he will be looked upon to supply what he has always supplied, key offence, stingy defence and hard work. Jefferson knows this, and wants to be the player his teammates want to give the ball to when a big game is on the line.
?I have to be a leader both on and off the court,? said Jefferson. ?I need to lead by example and I need to score. I have to do a bit of everything.?
Last year, the team made the playoffs and was bounced in the first round. This year, Jefferson and his teammates are eyeing a return trip to nationals.
That?s a realistic goal, according to Jefferson.
?This year, two teams from our OUA conference get to go to nationals, so it?s a realistic goal,? said Jefferson. ?We just have to go out and get it.?
Capturing that berth will take consistency.
?We?re a small team, so we have to be consistent on the court whether it be our shooting, passing or defence,?
said Jefferson. ?We have to run teams. We have to create an up-tempo game that hopefully other teams can?t withstand for 40 minutes.?
As one of the captains, head coach Virgil Hill wants a big season from the Val Caron native on and off the court.
?Jimmy has to be one of our leading scorers,? said Hill. ?As one of the captains, he has to help coach the younger players in how we defend, play and the things we stand for.?
Hill knows Jefferson?s work ethic and passion is infectious to the rest of the team.
?Jim helps create a level of calmness on the floor for us,? said Hill. ?He leads by example with his toughness and how competitive and intense he is. It becomes infectious to the rest of the team. It raises the bar for everybody.
He demands the best of his teammates and it draws the best out of them.?
Playing the last four seasons in his hometown has been a rewarding experience for Jefferson.
?It?s been great because my family has been at every game,? said Jefferson. ?It?s nice being a hometown boy because everyone roots for you.?
The self-described blue collar worker-type player is proud of competing in the OUA for five years and knows what would be the perfect icing on the cake for his career.
?Going to nationals again would be the ultimate,? said Jefferson. ?I started my career at nationals and I would like to end it there.?
As time winds down on his illustrious OUA career, Jefferson will take the time this season to enjoy the moments.
?I want to savour each and every bit this year,? said Jefferson. ?I will never get this chance again.?