After coming up through rough living conditions and having two of his
brothers shot, Othyus Jeffers is nearing the end of two highly successful seasons.
Jeffers Comin' Up
By Frank Rusnak
After watching 6'5" Othyus Jeffers from Hubbard operate on the court, you tend to think the 210-pound swingman is tough. But his strength is ingrained deep within him and goes was beyond the hardwood.
"Growing up, there were lots of things to deal with. You couldn't go everywhere around the neighborhood because of shootings and stuff."
"The environment that Othyus lives in and grows up in makes him strong," third-year Hubbard coach Calvin Holiday said. "I always tease the other kids on the team and say they've got a silver spoon in their mouth. 'O' doesn't have that. He came out of the environment where you got to fight to survive."
The fourth youngest of seven siblings, Jeffers lost two brothers to shootings, the most recent only three months ago.
Averaging 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Greyhounds, Jeffers lives on the West Side of Chicago and attended nearby Westinghouse as a freshman. Holiday and his assistant, Lorenzo Donegan, who are both Chicago firemen, remember Jeffers as a tiny 5'5" freshman who never played in his first year on the frosh-soph team.
"When Othyus was at Westinghouse he was sitting on the bench when we went to one of the games," Holiday remembers. "I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and laughed at him when he was sitting on the bench, and he didn't appreciate that. [Former Westinghouse coach] Chris Head wasn't using him. I really didn't take him from Chris; he had too many players, they were stock piled, and he transferred out."
Growing four inches going into his sophomore year, Holiday remembers Jeffers as a rail-thin 5'9" kid with huge hands and good springs in his legs. Sitting out his sophomore year at Hubbard because of transfer rules, last season was his first year playing organized basketball.
With a junior dominated team, the Greyhounds went 19-12 last season, and have been up and down this season heading into the Chicago Public League playoffs this weekend. But Holiday is confident things will be OK if the team follows Jeffers' lead.
"Coming off the West Side, he's got that mentality of, 'Hey, it's either me or nothing,'" Holiday said. "So, with that mentality, I try and have him spread that to the rest of the team. If the team puts the reigns in Othyus' hands and lets him lead, because he can play all positions, we will be successful."
With increased playing time in a star role, better surroundings and Holiday there to look out for him, Jeffers is happy at Hubbard.
"Even though it's hard out here at Hubbard, it ain't nothing like what I'm coming from," Jeffers said. "Last year was my first year of playing organized ball. I felt I had to prove myself. I had to catch up with everyone else. I feel I caught up now.
"Growing up, there were lots of things to deal with. You couldn't go everywhere around the neighborhood because of shootings and stuff. Certain times at night, if people didn't know you, they'd pull the trigger, and it was kind of hard. Going to school you got to take the long way around. If you wear certain colors or certain shoes, you getting beat up. So I had to take the long way around on the busy streets. That was hard because I had to wake up two hours earlier when the school ain't nothing but 10 minutes away."
Taking the long way to success on the basketball court, as well, he has peaked the interest of Oklahoma State, UIC, Loyola, Ball State, Miami (FL), said Holiday, who guarantees as long he can hook onto a college, he'll be successful.
"Othyus had some devastating living conditions growing up," Holiday said. "He has stayed focus with all the tragedies in his life. Three months ago his brother was killed, shot in the head. He's seen too much devastation because down there, it's either live or die. His mother asked us to look out for Othyus and she just hopes that he could get out of that environment."
Copyright © 1999-2000
High School Elite, All rights reserved.