Clarence Jeffery Pursues Pro Hoops Career in Europe
June 6, 2013
Watching the Miami Heat battle the San Antonio Spurs, Clarence Jeffery will study his favorite sport as hoops stars like LeBron James, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan take the floor.
What’s working, and what’s not for the coaches are some of the things the former Mississippi College basketball standout will look for when he tunes in Thursday night’s opener and for the rest of the NBA Finals.
But the 27-year-old Mississippi native will be much more focused on doing all the things it takes to advance his pro hoops dreams.
The versatile 6’3” guard/forward is developing his game in Mississippi this summer to get ready for the July 10-11 Eurochallenge in Las Vegas. For two days in the Nevada resort, he will join players from across the USA and the globe invited to a series of games before scouts, coaches and general managers of different European basketball teams.
If that doesn’t work out, look for Jeffery to return to Mongolia, a landlocked nation of 2.9 million people in East and Central Asia, where he’s better known to avid basketball fans than he is in Mississippi.
Jeffery played for the Mill House Avatar team and TLG-13 squad of the Mongolian National Basketball Association from 2009 through 2012. An injury kept him sidelined last season, so he returned home to the Magnolia State to teach physical education at Madison Avenue Upper Elementary in Madison, get involved in church activities and play basketball.
“I didn’t even play this year, but fans from Mongolia have literally taken over my Facebook page. They are constantly messaging me,” says the 2009 MC kinesiology graduate who visited Mississippi College in early June.
Jeffery was here for a reason – he’s serving as a summer camp counselor for children at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Madison, and wanted to show the kids the Choctaws athletic facilities and meet some of the coaches at his alma mater.
Fifth grader Christian Gines, 10, of Madison Avenue Elementary, admires the Mississippi College grad that many call CJ. “He makes you work, but he lets us have fun, too.”
Wearing an Atlanta Falcons jersey, Christian wants to grow up to be a pro football player, but is also interested in pursuing basketball just like his tall camp counselor.
Working with children like he’s doing this summer and being part of the Madison community have made the injury rehabilitation process go much smoother for Jeffery.
“I never had the privilege to go to any summer camps, after school programs or basketball camps when I was younger, so I enjoy giving kids something I never had. I’m a big kid at heart, so I enjoy being around them.”
Since being back in Madison, the pro basketball player has enjoyed a tremendous reception. “The people of Madison have made one of the toughest times of my life (being injured) so much easier. There has been non-stop encouragement from teachers, coaches, parents and even Mayor Mary Hawkins.”
A friend found a spot for Jeffery on a men’s team in the area, and that worked out pretty well. The squad lost only one game all season, and won the championship. But it’s not pro basketball.
“As much as I love investing my time in these children, I look forward to returning to professional basketball,” Jeffery said. “Most of the parents here have said they would love to see me here in the fall, but they hope they don’t see me because I’ve signed a contract to play somewhere.”
Mongolia has about the same number of people as Mississippi and many of them are just as warm-hearted and friendly as the folks in the South.
“Aside from the horrific winter, Mongolia is different, but interesting. Some of the people I met while living there have taken me in as family and we stay in touch with each other to this day,” Jeffery said. “One of them said recently the reason many Mongolians like me was because I carried myself like a true professional and that I was respectful. I was always taught to never let something go to my head.”
CJ’s popularity in Mongolia is obvious with the pro hoops player starring in a cookie commercial that scores points with TV viewers, young and old alike. A talented hoopster at Madison Central and Mississippi Valley State before coming to MC, Jeffery relishes his role in the ad as the high-flying pitchman on the hardwood for Choco-Biscuits.
Whether he pursues pro basketball in Mongolia, Europe or continues to work with business partners on new ventures, MC Choctaws hoops coach Don Lofton hopes for the best for his former player. “I hope he makes it,” Lofton said. “He’s a good role model and a good guy.”
Photo: Clarence Jeffery