ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Craig Neal has said since the first day of practice that Damien Jefferson is a good ball player who could be a star at New Mexico.
The freshman guard had his best night in cherry and silver in an 80-77 victory at UNLV Wednesday night. Jefferson delivered 13 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a performance that the Lobos needed from him.
The Lobos revealed this week that two of their starters were down. Star forward Tim Williams was forced to sit because of a stress reaction on his left foot. He is expected to miss up to four more weeks. Guard Dane Kuiper suffered a broken nose and concussion on the road at Nevada last week.
With both players out of the lineup, the Lobos needed someone to pick up the slack and Jefferson was more than willing to accept the role.
“He’s an explosive scorer,” said Lobos head coach Craig Neal. “He can create his own shot. I just liked how in tuned he was with his teammates talking in the huddle and not afraid to make a big play.”
Jefferson looked like a seasoned veteran on the court and even received press from the broadcasters televising the game.
“Once I started scoring buckets and making plays I just thought to myself I can really be good,” said Jefferson. “My coaches trusted me to play all of those minutes and I trusted myself, obviously my hard work paying off.”
Jefferson was 6 of 11 from the field and 1-2 from the three-point line.
He also led the team in assists with four. He said the performance in Las Vegas was a confidence boost. Just how much of a boost? The Lobos will find out Saturday when they host San Jose State.
The Spartans only have three Mountain West victories compared to that of seven for the Lobos. The game has a 4 p.m. start and will be broadcast on ROOT Sports.