I can nitpick all I want about the weaknesses in Jeff’s game but all that needs to be known is this. Jeff came into the program with all sorts of hype, expectations and ‘sleeper’ tags, whether unfair or not. He was a consensus top 100 recruit in the class of 2007 (which was STACKED if you look at that complete list). Now obviously expectations change when you finally get to see the prospect on the college level. Anyone could see how raw Jeff’s game was as a freshman, and he was clearly struggling to adjust to the physical and mental demands of the game. But it seemed at the end of his freshman year he put it together and was going to compete for a starting spot in 08-09 and be a contributor. A preseason concussion and DJ Jackson’s quick start put an end to that possibility. However, when DJ went into his near season-long slump and basically handed Jeff the starting position, he didn’t take advantage. He was erratic, sometimes non-existent, and certainly unreliable on the court. It was disappointing to see him miss a golden opportunity to earn some serious PT, get some valuable experience and confidence, and take a few steps forward in becoming the player every PSU fan wants him to become. I can only imagine how frustrating it was for Jeff, personally (and in fairness to him, there was more than one instance where I felt DeChellis mishandled his playing time).
This is tough to answer because there’s now some doubt surrounding what Jeff’s career at PSU will become. The optimistic fans will point to his untapped potential, his long frame, and a few games where he’s performed well as evidence of what Jeff can be. The pessimists will point to his lack of toughness, mental instability, and consistent inconsistency as evidence to why Jeff will never be a big time contributor here. I’m on the fence between these two viewpoints. Jeff’s going to have to make some big strides to crack the starting lineup with the talent we’ve seemingly brought in. I’ve dumbed down expectations a bit and am admittedly more excited for the incoming freshmen. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting Jeff on the back-burner or wishing he doesn’t succeed. The last thing I ever want for any player, or person for that matter, is to regret coming to Penn State. But the reality is half of his eligibility has come and gone and no substantial progress has been made with his play on the court.
Best Performance of the Year
- George Mason – 13 points, 6-12 FG, 5 rebounds, 2 assists in 29 minutes
This was a pretty easy choice. Jeff came up huge with a career performance in the first NIT game, especially after Jamelle went down with his shoulder injury at the start of the second half. This game kept in line with an optimistic, yet relatively unknown trend for Jeff. He has played much better when Jamelle Cornley is not on the floor. The same happened at the end of the 07-08 season when Jamelle’s knee forced him to sit out the last 3 or 4 games. In five select games at the end of the last 2 seasons where Jamelle hasn’t suited up (with the exception of this GMU game), Jeff has averaged 29 minutes, 9.4 points (on 4.4-9.8 shooting, or roughly 45%), 6 rebounds, and 2 assists a contest. Those numbers are close to what Mike Davis of Illinois put up this season in his breakout sophomore campaign. When I watched Davis play this season, I couldn’t help but think that’s who Jeff should be. Hopefully Jeff can learn a few things from Davis on film. They have the exact same frame and I know, despite everyone else’s criticism, Jeff has a jumpshot (which should be priority #1 this offseason…get some arc on that shot, son…I know you can do it). So with Cornley gone, there’s evidence (as small and select as it is) that Jeff could be in for a breakout year next season (but as I’ve already stated, I’m taking the ‘believe it when I see it’ approach).
Final Grade: F
I don’t know how you can justify a better grade for Jeff this season. I’m sure the coaches would claim Jeff’s improved in practice and what not, and I’m sure this season wasn’t a total bust for Brooks, but his play on the court pretty much was.