- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins is enamored with the instincts of versatile rookie Jared Jeffries.

Collins loves the 6-foot-11 forward's activity at both ends of the court. He likes his frenetic playing pace and is thrilled that he has a young player that he does not have to prod to "play with energy."

But Jeffries has one habit that Collins wants to see broken or, at least, modified. Whenever Jeffries makes a mistake in practice or a game, he tends to get down.

"Wanting to do well is a wonderful trait," Collins said, "but you can't get down on yourself because the games come too fast. You have to be resilient. You have to able to put that last game behind you. That's a good thing about Jared because I don't have to tell him things more than once. I don't belabor things with him because he'll make things hard on himself."

In his last outing, a 101-95 home loss to Seattle on Tuesday that ended the Wizards' three-game winning streak, Jeffries had the best game of his NBA career. He was playing tough defense and hustling against the team that Collins considers the hardest team in the NBA to defend against and he acquitted himself well, posting career highs in points (14), rebounds (eight) and minutes (32).

Throughout his career, Jeffries 11 days shy of his 21st birthday has dealt with a bad game by shooting hundreds of baskets in solitude.

"I'm hard on myself," Jeffries said. "If I have a bad game or a bad practice, the rest of the day I'll probably be down. I've gotten better at bouncing back, but when I don't play well and I don't do what I'm supposed to do, I'll get down on myself."

Assistant coach Patrick Ewing has worked closely with Washington's group of young big men since joining the staff during the summer. Ewing saw many highs and lows both on and off the court during his 17-year career, 15 of which were spent in the fishbowl that is New York. Like Collins, he wants to make sure Jeffries learns to accept disappointment and move on.

"I just think he has to stay positive and keep on working," Ewing said.

Against Seattle, Jeffries played the all-around floor game that the Wizards realized he was capable of soon after making him the 11th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. Seattle went to a small lineup and Jeffries sometimes found himself playing against center Predrag Drobnjak. At other times, he was matched against smaller Seattle players.

"He does a lot of things," Collins said. "He'll pressure the ball, he'll rotate on defense, go to the offensive boards. He can rebound and push it up the floor. And the more he's with us, the more he'll do that. I'll give him that kind of latitude.

"We've got guys who can run the floor, and now you've got this 6-11 guy pushing the ball on the break," says Collins, noting that this was a special skill of Magic Johnson's. "I want those things to become instinctive for him."

As Jeffries develops, the ability to do so many things he has no problem rebounding the ball or leading a fastbreak is something he realizes will make him more of a valued commodity.

Jeffries came into the league idolizing the all-around game of Minnesota's do-everything forward, Kevin Garnett.

"I can play the three, four and five positions," he said. "I can guard four spots on the floor. I think that's definitely one of the reasons why they drafted me."

Jeffries was involved in the most crucial play of Tuesday's game. With Seattle leading 97-95, Jeffries had to run almost from one side of the court to the other in an attempt to block the eventual game-clinching 3-pointer by Brent Barry.

Jeffries didn't get there in time. His momentum carried him into the scorer's table and, after seeing the ball go through the hoop, he pounded his fist on the tabletop.

"It was [frustrating], but I did everything I could do to get there," Jeffries said. "Can't lose any sleep over that, can you?"


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