Othyus Jeffers' Spurs Call-Up Completes Comeback Story
For NBA D-League prospects, the road to the NBA can be grueling. For Othyus Jeffers, however, all of the obstacles that come with trying to earn a Call-Up seemed like nothing in comparison to the ones he'd already overcome: The streets of the West Side of Chicago. The murders of two of his three brothers (in 1993 and 2002). Getting shot in the thigh himself after his junior year at Illinois-Chicago. Signing his first big NBA deal with the Wizards in 2011, watching it disappear due to the lockout, and then suffering a season-ending ACL tear.
During an interview in December, amid what has been an incredible comeback season, Jeffers shook off the potentially career-threatening injuries like they were a couple of weak defenders. He laughed as he said that "if it weren't for reporters, I would've probably forgot I got shot." He said Iowa's midseason coaching change last year and new defense-first system that was put in place were the reasons his numbers dropped significantly, not his recovery from the ACL surgery. A return to run-and-gun under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren this season has resulted in the best year of the 28-year-old's pro career: 22.8 points (sixth among prospects) and 11.4 rebounds (second among prospects) per game, to go along with 3.3 assists and 2.5 steals.
Arguably the league MVP thus far, Jeffers had risen to No. 12 on the NBADLeague.com Prospect Watch before Friday's Call-Up to the Spurs (his second career 10-day contract with them). He'll bring the same pitbull mentality to San Antonio -- desperate for help on the wing after injuries to Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard -- that he brought to Iowa. At a stout 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, he's held his own as an old-school forward against opponents as big as 7-foot-2 Rudy Gobert, posted ten 20-point, 10-rebound games and three games with 7+ steals, and made more shots in the paint (148) than any other player -- not to mention been the clear alpha dog on a 14-8 team even when former first-round picks Shabazz Muhammad and Jeff Teague came down from the NBA.
He's earned NBA D-League Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors, played in 31 NBA games and received invites to Summer Leagues and training camps year after year. But while he had yet to see the fruits of his recent labor, the man they call "O" sounded like he didn't need an NBA Call-Up to know that he had already proven his worth. "The ACL, I just looked at like, 'That's life. That's basketball.' Getting back to the NBA, it's really no big deal to me because everything I've done so far in basketball is about respect. Everyone knows that I should be in the NBA, but I got the respect, so I'm really OK."
"You catch yourself [doubting whether he'll make it back] here and there. But I'm humble and I'm patient. I know something more will be at the end of the tunnel."
Associated Press: Jeffers overcomes odds for shot with Wolves
Fox Sports North: Jeffers no stranger to adversity