SPARTAN SPOTLIGHT – JESSE JEFFERS

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Nov 10, 2014

Jesse Jeffers was travelling down Glover Road. He was travelling in a northeasterly direction towards Trinity Western University. He was travelling a route he had taken hundreds of times before.

He slowed down for a red light.

The car in front of him did as well.

A green truck behind him did not. Instead, the truck barreled into the back of Jeffers’ car and Jeffers’ car, subsequently, hit the car in front of him.

No one was hurt. But the events of that day in the spring of 2014 changed Jeffers’ life forever.

The drivers of all three cars stepped out. The driver of the car in front of the 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward was Spartans men’s volleyball middle Danny Grant. The driver of the car behind his car was TWU women’s volleyball outside Casie Gano.

The three athletes, and a number of other athletes who were passengers, couldn’t help but have a bit of a laugh.

But Gano, naturally, laughed a little less than the rest. She was in fact the instigator of the whole scene and had crunched the back end of Jeffers’ car enough that it would be forced out of commission for a few days.

So, for those next few days, Gano offered to be Jeffers’ chauffeur.

It was on those rides that the dominoes to the biggest moment in Jeffers’ life began to fall.

During one or two of those trips to TWU, Gano suggested Jeffers should attend an upcoming Athletes in Action weekend.

“She was very convincing,” Jeffers says.

And it was at that weekend that Jeffers committed his life to Christ.

“It was the biggest moment of my life, really,” Jeffers says. “I can’t explain it any better than that.”

And it was since then that Jeffers has been able to give perspective to both basketball and the wild ride that he’s been on since arriving in Langley in 2010, leaving in 2011 and then coming back in 2013.

“I had been searching,” Jeffers says. “I grew up in a Christian home but didn’t really understand what that was. The retreat showed me how I should live my life and gave me perspective on things. Since then, it’s been incredible and I want to share that with the team this year and spread the news.

“God works in mysterious ways.”

Four years earlier, Jeffers had arrived at TWU as a highly-touted prospect from North Vancouver.

He was coming off a single-game performance at the B.C. High School Boys “AAA” Championships in which he scored 50-points for Argyle Secondary in his team’s first game of the tournament. His buzzer-beating lay-up in that game gave Argyle a 79-77 win over Sir Charles Tupper. His final basket indelibly remains as a YouTube hit.

However his first time at TWU lasted little more than one year.

In his first season, he suffered a concussion after taking an elbow to the face and fracturing his cheek bone.

“That was tough on my academics and my basketball,” says Jeffers, who was forced to the sidelines for a couple of months because of the concussion.

That season was the Spartans best in program history as they made it to the CIS national championship gold medal game before losing to Carleton in the final. With a stacked TWU roster and hindered by his concussion, Jeffers didn’t play much.

After the season, he found himself going through an arduous rehabilitation process for another issue: his foot. For years he had played through pain in his feet. As it turned out, he had extra bone fragments in his toes and surgery would be required to remove them.

It didn’t heal has quickly as expected and he never really got back on the court with the Spartans.

In Oct. 2011, with both school and basketball becoming a source of frustration, he quit.

“I didn’t have much direction in terms of academics and I wasn’t playing basketball,” Jeffers says. “So I didn’t really feel like I was using my time in a valuable way. I just wanted to take some time off and figure that out.

“I was actually unsure of basketball at the time too. I was ready to just call it quits because of the injuries. It had been eight months since I had played in an actual game. I wasn’t healthy and I couldn’t enjoy it enough to want to come back.”

For the next year, he worked at a community centre.

However, a street ball game in the spring of 2012 rekindled the idea of playing post-secondary basketball. His feet didn’t hurt.

“I tried playing and didn’t have any pain in my feet,” he says. “So, I pushed the limit and I got back in shape and there was no trouble and no pain.

“And working at a community centre was enough for me to realize I had more potential. I wanted to work hard and achieve more.”

So he started walking down the path that would lead him back to Glover Road.

That fall, in 2012-13, he joined enrolled at Langara College and joined the Falcons basketball team. That year, he helped lead Langara to a PACWEST (Pacific Western Athletic Association) championship and a CCAA (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association) bronze medal.

When, he recalls that season, he smiles.

“It was fun. It was a fun year.”

But Jeffers knew there was more to his basketball career than just having fun.

Since leaving TWU, Jeffers had stayed in touch with Spartans coach Scott Allen. The door for him to return was always open.

“I had a moment where I realized what I had given up by leaving TWU,” Jeffers says. “I don’t regret (leaving), but I wish I had known what I wanted before. It just took me a little bit longer to figure out.

“I guess God has a plan. He had a plan for me.”

In the fall of 2013, Jeffers returned to TWU. In his first year back, he averaged 17.6 minutes per game, 6.4 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Then, Gano’s car rear-ended him.

And things changed.

Shortly after accepting Christ following the AIA weekend, Jeffers did something few people can claim to have done.

He spent the summer picking morel mushrooms in the Yukon.

Spending the days with little to no communication with the outside world and just his one friend for company, he had plenty of time think.

“I just became a Christian and I thought what better way to really think about it and let it sink in,” Jeffers says. “I had time to myself. I brought up my bible and my devotion book. It was a really good time.”

After a summer spent on what he describes as a “really long camping trip,” Jeffers returned with fire to tell his story only burning brighter.

Coming into this season – his fourth year of CIS eligibility – there was definitely something different.

“My whole focus has changed,” he says. “I don’t really view basketball as the be all and end all of my life. I don’t feed off of wins or losses or 20 or 30 or 50-point games. I’m still happy when we win but I don’t feed off of it as my source of long-term happiness.”

Yet, it’s now – when he’s discovered a more fulfilling source of happiness and when he feels least emotionally affected by wins and losses – that he’s had the most success. Through the first three games of the 2014-15 season, he’s averaging a team-high 10.5 points per game.

“Success is when preparation meets opportunity,” Allen says. “He’s been preparing hard for three years for this moment of leading the team. Over the past two games, he’s shown what he can do and he’s starting to feel comfortable.”

In an early season game against Manitoba, Jeffers had a career high 24-point night to lead the Spartans while going 10 for 13 from the field.

Playing 30 minutes, it was by far his most productive in a TWU uniform.

“I think he was more aggressive and more confident in attacking,” Allen says. “He’s not feeling like he’s the fifth choice on the team. Someone has to step up and score for us and he’s filling that void.

“There’s no doubt, we’re finally getting what we expected from him.”

When Jeffers returned to TWU in 2013, he didn’t know what to expect. When he got hit on Glover Road, he didn’t know what to expect. When he went to the AIA weekend, he didn’t know what to expect. Sheesh, when he went to the Yukon to pick gourmet mushrooms, he definitely didn’t know what to expect.

And coming into this season, again, he’s not quite sure of what to expect.

But, with a renewed focus and outlook on life, he’s confident that he doesn’t need to know what to expect. It’s going to be good.

“Both on the court as well as off the court, I think great things will come out of this year.”

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