Originally written January 18, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
DURHAM, N.C. -- One man's misfortune is often another man's opportunity. That goes for Duke freshman forward Amile Jefferson, who is suddenly a vital component of what No. 3 Duke is trying to achieve. And he's responding pretty well. Losing senior and third-leading scorer Ryan Kelly last week for perhaps the rest of the regular season has forced the Blue Devils to change. Kelly is a true stretch-four -- a long forward capable of playing comfortably on the perimeter who could also take his man off the dribble. He can defend anywhere, and is crucial defending in the open court. Jefferson doesn't have those same strengths, so instead of running four players on the perimeter to open space for 6-foot-11 center Mason Plumlee down low and keeping sharpshooting senior Seth Curry and his bum right leg in manageable situations, Duke had to run a lot more set plays against Georgia Tech on Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. "It's tough," Curry said. "We've had to change directions in the middle of the season and run different plays, have different driving angles, have different places to kick (the ball) to. We're still getting a feel for it. It's a work in progress." The Devils (16-1, 3-1 ACC) stumbled and bumbled through the first half and trailed by one at halftime. But a basket by Jefferson just before the half concluded lit a spark in the team, and opened the 6-8 Jefferson's eyes that he can excel at this level right now. "I'm confident in what I do, so whenever I get a chance or I see some daylight I can take advantage of it, especially with guys that don't that I can put the ball on the floor and can finish," Jefferson said after the 73-57 Duke victory. Jefferson's offensive instincts are ahead of his defensive ones, though he was much better guarding Thursday than last Saturday at N.C. State. He fouled out in 12 minutes against the Wolfpack, but he was whistled for four fouls in 28 minutes against the Jackets. Jefferson also grabbed 10 rebounds six offensive - and scored six points. Kelly was a shooter and driver and around the rim he was more of a ball-tapper. Jefferson uses a super-quick second leap to get rebounds over people. He just has a knack for getting the ball. "He's got great length, so you can't be inside him to rebound, you've got to take him out, in a good way, and put a body on him and get him out of there," Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. Curry calls Jefferson "crafty" on the boards, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the Philadelphia native gives the team energy. Duke's staff looked at Jefferson playing on the perimeter earlier in the season, but he just doesn't have the skills to play too far from the lane. And other than in a few games against patsies, he didn't get much playing time until Kelly went down. Krzyzewski said Jefferson has practiced well all season and was gaining confidence. Now that he's played 40 minutes in the last two games and has contributed (16 points, 14 rebounds), Jefferson's psyche is soaring. "It's definitely been crucial for me," he said about playing important minutes. "The more I've been out there the more comfortable I've become. At first, I was shown where I need to be guys were talking to me but the more I'm out there the more I know what to do and they don't have to always tell me." While his confidence grows and the Blue Devils assimilate their new approach, expect Jefferson to continue grabbing rebounds, turning the Devils from a so-so team on the glass into a very good one, especially on the offensive end. In fact, here are Duke's offensive rebound totals against the Devils' toughest opponents to date: Kentucky, 9; Minnesota, 7; Louisville, 7; and Ohio State, 7. However, the Devils snared 12 at N.C. State and had 15 on Thursday against the Jackets. In addition, 21 of Jefferson's 41 rebounds have come on the offensive side of the court. He is a rebounding machine, an energy machine and brings a refreshing spark to the floor. And while Duke would love for Kelly to get his 32 to 35 minutes a night and would be better off for it, Jefferson does improve the Devils in some areas and gives their legendary coach something to work with. Krzyzewski was right when he said about Jefferson, "He started the second half and looked like a kid who has started for a while." He may get the first-half nod moving forward.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Royals beat A's in extras, win first playoff game since '85

Fan on Craigslist offers Nats playoff tickets for threesome

Brady snubs rookie Garoppolo after touchdown pass

Cung Le suspended for failed HGH test

FCC Chairman: Washington nickname 'inappropriate today'

Brain study finds 76 of 79 deceased NFL players had CTE

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Tony Sparano to step in as Raiders head coach

Eli on Geno Smith: If fans yell at you, you probably deserve it

49ers players come out in support of Jim Harbaugh

Raiders reportedly expected to make a run at Jon Gruden

FCC unanimously ends sports blackout rule

Michael Phelps arrested for DUI

MLB.com posts wrong story saying A's won game

WATCH: Brett Favre in new nose hair trimmer commercial

WATCH: Michigan students protest, call for AD to be fired

Marlins president: We're not trading Giancarlo Stanton

Heckling Knicks fan suing team over ejection

This weekend in NFL stupid

Kobe: Iggy Azalea has had better career than Swaggy P

College football's post-Week 5 playoff projection

Oregon to don pink-themed unis for breast cancer awareness

Is DeMarco Murray the best RB in the NFL?

WATCH: TBS sends up 'Boom Goes the Dynamite' with promo

Ilya Bryzgalov takes photos with fans while on the bench

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

FCC: Washington nickname 'inappropriate today'

Could Jon Gruden return to Oakland?

Marlins: We're not trading Stanton

Study: 76 of 79 deceased NFL players had CTE

Heckling fan sues Knicks over ejection

Sparano to step in as Raiders head coach

This weekend in NFL stupid

Kobe chooses Iggy over Swaggy P

Is DeMarco Murray the NFL's best RB?

Ilya Bryzgalov takes photos with fans while on the bench

NFL Awards: Week 4 edition

Michael Phelps arrested for DUI

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.