Crunch Time For Hammond Is Called 'Jefferson Time'

March 10, 1991|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff writer

When the Jeffersons moved to Howard County from New York's Westchester County three years ago, Kyle was just another sophomore transfer student at Hammond High.

Little did Golden Bears basketball coachesand fans know what a phenomenal player they were getting.

"I think he's one of the 10 best players ever in Howard County and the best this year," Bears coach Jack Burke said.

Crunch time for Hammond should have been renamed "Jefferson time"; he repeatedly produced baskets in the clutch about as well as any high school player can.

Jefferson served notice early of the kind of player he would be. He hit the game-winning basket in the state semifinal game his sophomore year. And he played two outstanding games in the state playoffs last year, scoring a combined 36 points and shooting 15-for-23 from the floor.

Hammond's hopes for a third straight trip to the state playoffs were --ed last week by Wilde Lake, but not without a last-ditch effort from Jefferson, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Jefferson thinks his best game this year came against Forest Park in a Christmastime tournament. He scored a career-high 35 points and sank two free throws with four seconds left to give Hammond a 94-93 win. In three games during that tournament, he scored 84 points.

For the season, Jefferson scored 500 points in 21 games for a 23.8 average. He grabbed 212 rebounds for a 10.0 average. And he averaged 5.2 assists.

His career points total 969.

As Jefferson went, sowent the Bears this season. When he fouled out of the league-opener Jan. 15 against Atholton after scoring just nine points and shooting 4-for-16 from the floor, his worst game of the season, Hammond lost.

When Hammond tackled league-leading Mount Hebron on Jan. 25 and Jefferson scored 23 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had nine assists, the Bears won.

In a one-point win over Wilde Lake on Feb. 8, Jefferson was sensational in crunch time. He forced a Wilde Lake player to alter his shot and miss a fast-break layup with 15 seconds left and the 'Cats leading, 70-69.

Then he rebounded a missed free throw. After his brother, Kris, a sophomore who plays guard for Hammond, sank two free throws for a 71-70 Hammond lead, seven seconds remained.

Jefferson stole the inbounds pass and Hammond held on to win. Jefferson had 13 rebounds, scored 20 points and shot 9-for-13 from the floor.

Hammond finished in a second-place league tie with Wilde Lake, one game behind Oakland Mills.

A good free-throw shooter, Jeffersonwon a 66-65 game against Centennial with two free throws at the end.

"I like to be on the line at the end of the game," he said.

The 6-3 senior is lean at 165 pounds; he leaps well, has great body control and a feathery shooting touch. He can endure a physical pounding, as he showed in the state playoffs last year.

"He's like a Timexwatch," Burke said. "He can take a licking and keep on ticking."

A good passer, Jefferson was unselfish in hitting the open man.

"If he had a pure scorer's mentality, he could have had a much higher average, but he played a team game," Burke said. "He doesn't worry about his scoring average. And if we're in a position to win, he'll find a way to do it."

Jefferson handles the ball well enough to bringit up court against pressure. He can shoot from outside or fight off bigger players and score inside. He likes to flash into the middle because he's quicker than most taller, heavier players.

He never had a set position for Hammond, but played all five, depending upon the game situation. In college -- he's thinking about Salisbury State, George Washington University and Virginia Wesleyan -- he'll probably be a shooting guard.

The Bears' biggest rival is Oakland Mills. They have finished second to the Scorpions in the league four straight years.

So it is ironic that Jefferson lives in the Oakland Mills district and is friends with some of the Scorpion players. The Jeffersons had moved from the Hammond district into Oakland Mills after Kylealready was a Hammond student. School regulations permitted Kyle stay at Hammond, then let Kris attend there.

Hammond lost twice to Oakland Mills this year, a big disappointment for Jefferson and his teammates.

"If we had beaten them, it would have made our season," said Jefferson, who scored 32 points and had 13 rebounds in the first game between the two teams.

An outstanding all-around athlete, he played defensive back for the football team. He runs outdoor track; last year he did a 6-foot high jump and ran a 22.9 seconds in the 200 meters. He was also part of the state championship 800-meter relay team.

He earned eight varsity letters in three years at Hammond.

Kyle is the oldest of three Jefferson brothers, so Hammond basketball fans have much to look forward to.

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