Jared Jeffries, right, enjoys a moment with his brother, Justin, at the Twin Lakes Recreation Center last week.
Chris Howell, our esteemed photographer, writes a weekly column for the Herald-Times. For Monday, he caught up with Hoosier great Jared Jeffries. Above is Howell’s photo and below are his words. Enjoy.
Believe it or not, Jared Jeffries didn’t always believe he would be an NBA player.
“Basketball was always something I just did,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was in love with it.”
“About my sophomore year (of high school),” he said. “I really decided that basketball was something I could do, I could make a living at.”
For his mother, Cecelia Jeffries, it was a little surprising as well.
“Not once had I ever thought that’s what he would do,” she said.
She always knew he enjoyed playing, but never thought that one day he would play college basketball as a Hoosier.
“The first time that he walked out there on that floor,” she said, “I just sat there and bawled. Because I had no idea … ‘This is really my son,’” she thought to herself the first time he walked onto the floor at Assembly Hall.
Now, almost 10 years later, Jared Jeffries has a wife, Jenny, and a daughter, Evangeline, and does his best to get home to Bloomington when he can.
Last week was his annual youth basketball camp at Twin Lakes Recreation Center, and one of his only opportunities to come home and relax with family and friends.
“It’s really nice because we just kind of sit around and talk and eat,” Cecelia said. “It’s very low key, but a lot of fun and relaxing.”
Jared, nearly 30 now, spent last week catching up with old friends and family.
“I think it’s amazing that 10 years have gone by since I finished high school,” he said. “I don’t get the chance to come home that often, but when I do I try to make it count by getting around to see everybody,” he said.
He takes these opportunities to share with his 2-year-old daughter some of the things he did as a child.
“My little girl had never roasted marshmallows, so we made a fire and roasted marshmallows the first night I was here,” he said.
Jared’s family looks forward to their time together as well.
“We try to fish as much as we can when he’s up here,” said Jared’s brother, Justin Jeffries. “The first day he was here, me, him and my dad went out fishing on our boat. He was here for a half hour and we were already out there fishing.”
Along with visiting family, Jeffries keeps busy with the Jared Jeffries Foundation basketball camp and helps the kids have fun playing basketball.
“I think a lot of times kids now put a lot of pressure on themselves … trying to take the game too serious,” he said.
“A lot of kids, just physically, you’re not going to be in the NBA. You’re not tall enough. You’re not fast enough,” he said.
“But you can have a lot of fun at basketball. You can get a college scholarship, and you can enjoy college,” he said.
“A lot of times, once people realize that they’re not going to be in the NBA or they’re not going to an Indiana, they get frustrated,” he said. “They get down on themselves and they quit playing or they give the game up.”
“That’s unfortunate,” he said. “The biggest thing a parent can do is just help a kid enjoy the game itself, and know that this is one of the few things in life that whatever you put into basketball always comes back to you.”
“I’ve worked really hard at basketball, but basketball has always given back to me,” he said.
Jeffries plans to give back to Bloomington in the fall by putting on a concert sometime in September to help raise money for area high school coaches.
“Everywhere right now, the education system is having a hard time,” he said. “So I feel like that’s one of the main areas I want to focus on and be involved in.”
Jeffries knows all too well the time and effort his coaches put in with him and his teammates while he was growing up in Bloomington. He wants to make sure that kids today will continue to benefit from that help.
“The amount of effort and time that they put in just helping kids and molding kids,” he said, “they deserve some kind of pay.”