Get to Know: Al Jefferson
David Locke is doing a series of “Get to Know” interviews with Jazz players. Only two have been posted so far, but there are supposed to be more coming soon. Next up: Al Jefferson.
“Al Jefferson. 6’9″, from Prentiss, Miss.”
Independent lady, who raised five bad kids with the help of my grandmothers…she believe in tough love. Growing up, she was the one that, when you fell down, she made you get up and try it again. And it helped every one of us along the way in life…
She was a schoolteacher when I was in the school, and they always wanted to send me to my mom instead of the principal office, and I used to hear her coming around the corner, and I know she was mad. I used to hear her footsteps and her voice, saying, “I gotta to go see about this boy.” And that used to put chills all over my body. And then, if she didn’t want to handle it, she would go call the big boss, which was my grandmother. And she didn’t play.
It was a good day at home when…
Everyday was a good day, really. ‘Specially when my mom come in smiling. That mean she had a good day at work.
Greatest high school moment
I have a lot of them, really, but my favorite one I have to say, when Jerry West came and watched me play my senior year of high school. I remember, just so nervous the whole day…That night, we played against a guy that was my height and everything. So it was two 6’9″, 6’8″ guys going at each other. And I remember thinking, I want to show Jerry West I could do everything, [that] I could not only score, but I could play defense, I could dribble the ball, I could make great decisions. I could block shots. I could do everything.
I remember trying to impress him so much, trying to impress him so bad, I wind up hitting 62 points, had like 19 rebounds, and I fouled out with four minutes left in the game…That had to be the greatest moment, because he was in the gym. He was in Prentiss High School gym. The man is on our logo, was in my gym.
That year, NBA scouts was coming in and out. But not Jerry West…People just went crazy about it. And my school was a black school, so black people would come to the school, but that year, even before Jerry West came, even the white people in my community was coming to Prentiss High to support us. And to me, it just brought a lot of people together. And then to see Jerry West come on top of that*, it was amazing. It was big for the town of Prentiss. Even to this day, white and black still continue to support Prentiss High. So it was a blessing.
First teacher/coach/mentor to see something special
I have a lot of coaches that played a big deal in my life, but I have to say the first coach was coach Arrington(?). He was my junior high coach, and he came and I played with him for one year…Even to this day, me and him still keep in touch.
And together with my high school coach at Prentiss High, Coach Lenny Macklemore(?). Great guy. He one of them guys that, kinda like Doc Rivers. He don’t care who you is, what your stats is, he gon tell you what you’re doing wrong and want to know how you feel about it. So he played a big role. He my high school coach for five years. I start playing high school in 8th grade. He moved me up to the high school in the 8th grade…
And then Larry Stamps(?) was my AAU coach. And he was the one that came and basically put me on a whole ‘nother level far as the stage to show my talent…I got a chance to go out all over the world playing big Nike tournaments…and I think that what got me drafted out of high school.
Path to the NBA
I remember watching TV one day, and I found out that Shawn Kemp, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, them guys got drafted out of high school. Jonathan Bender was from Miss., he got drafted out of high school. And I remember seeing that, and I said, “I can do that too. I want to get drafted out of high school.”
I was a class clown in school. I wasn’t doing my work. You know, that’s kind of embarrassing for a mom who a teacher, and then my uncle was the assistant superintendent. You know, it embarrassing them. But once I decided, OK, this what I’m gonna do, I was determined to do it. In the 7th grade, that’s what I said.
And at first people didn’t believe me, ’cause like I said, I was a class clown. I wanted to have fun and make everyone laugh. Then I start getting serious. People start saying, “Wow, this kid really change his attitude.” And Miss McGee, Minnie McGee, she was my English teacher, and she was the one that stayed on me, and stayed on me and let me know, “Basketball is good, but your education just as important.” So it evolved through high school. I was determined to do it.
Miss McGee again!!! Hahahaha!!
** First pair of basketball shoes: I wanna say Shaquille O’Neal, when he wear Reebok.
** First car you ever drove: It was like a 1960s Malibu or something. My auntie had a car, a Malibu, and she taught me how to drive, 11 years old, and she taught me how to drive. It was a green Malibu.
** First car you ever owned: A 1985 Chevy Caprice.
** Favorite meal: Fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, sweet potato pie. And my grandmother banana pudding.
** What was on the walls of your childhood room: Well, first of all, I didn’t have a room. We slept in a daybed in the living room…I didn’t have a bedroom growing up…I didn’t get my first room until I probably 16, 17.*
* I think we are getting insight into Al’s giant bed lol.
** If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would they be? My two grandmothers and my daddy. Just ’cause, to be around my two grandmothers again, and I never got a chance to meet my dad. He died when I was a baby, so that would be the three if I had to choose.
** If you were an actor, what kind of actor would you want to be? I wanna be a smooth actor like Denzel. Like everything Denzel do, he smooth.
** Superpower you’d pick: Ability to disappear and be anywhere in the world.
** First dunk: 8th grade, I got a fast break. I missed the dunk. And by that time, some kind of way, before I could run back down court, my teammate got a steal. Threw it back to me, and I got it the second time, and I was celebrating for like ten minutes, and coach made me run back down the court yelling “Defense.”
** First-ever game winner: I think my first game-winner, I wanna say, that I could remember right now, was in Boston, and I hit a game-winning shot over Miami even though [Shaquille O’Neal] wasn’t playing because they was resting for the Playoffs…but it still counted for me.
** First video game ever played: Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo.
** Worst job you ever had: Never had a job but the NBA.
** Who would you rather play with in their prime, Stockton or Malone? Man, that’s tough. Oh man. I have to say John Stockton, ’cause me and Karl, we kinda the same type of player far as [position]. I guess he could play the power forward and I could be the center. Shoot, that’s tough. Can I bring both of ‘em back?
** Best Halloween costume: We didn’t have Halloween costumes [growing up]. [Deron Williams] had a Halloween party when I first got here, and I went as Ike Turner. So that probably the best one.
** Best Christmas present: My grandmother cooking a big meal, big Christmas dinner. That was better than anything you could open up.
** Best date you’ve ever been on: I don’t know.
Get to Know: Paul Millsap