While the coaching staff has three center recruits visiting the Purdue campus over the next two weekends, a top-rated forward from Ohio also remains interested in Purdue. Aisha Jefferson of Chaminade-Julienne High said as recently as this past Tuesday (October 12) that her list is down to four programs -- Purdue, Boston College, LSU and Michigan State. She participated in the Nike All-American Camp this past July in St. Louis, where we had an opportunity to sit down and chat a bit about her summer.
OGFP: The first time I saw you this summer, you were with your AAU team in Chicago back in May. Has it been one weekend tournament after another since then?
Jefferson: Pretty much. We went to the Deep South tournament before we went there I think. It wasn't as tough as the Chicago tournament was, but it was good and we did well. I don't think we ended up winning the tounament, but we did well.
OGFP: There were a couple of loaded teams at that tournament, The Chicago ...
Jefferson: ...the Flames.
OGFP: ...the Chicago Flames brought in Candace Parker and Tudy Reid, two players who will be college freshmen this year at major programs.
Jefferson: I liked playing there against them.
OGFP: After Nike, any more AAU events or are you done for the summer?
Jefferson: I go to Chicago right after this. I go home for a day -- actually, I don't even go home for a day. I go to Columbus and stay overnight with my AAU teammates. That next morning we fly out for Chicago for a tournament. Or I think we might just drive there. Then after that I'm done with AAU. Then I go to team camp over at Maryland. So I'm not done yet. I have at least two more events.
OGFP: How did your team get hooked up with the Maryland Team Camp?
Jefferson: My coach had a lot to do with it. Each year we try to get in a team camp. Last year he had some personal problems with his family. His father just died and he wasn't ready to accept the job yet and we didn't get to go to camp last year. So he wanted us to go this year and we heard there were good players and teams there.
OGFP: Your teammates here at Nike -- this is a different experience. How do you contribute when at first it seemed everybody wanted to do their own thing? Then there was a switch from the guards penetrating, penetrating and penetrating, to more passing that involved the posts more.
Jefferson: Quietly, I think it was Ashlee (Trebilcock) our point guard who is going to UCLA. She just showed it by passing a lot. My role on the team here is a lot different, but I keep working hard. I know every time I won't get the ball. But my thing is rebounding and that's how I try to score -- off those.
OGFP: Nike not only puts you through drills, but also through classes. When you look back at this camp, what is the best lesson you think you have learned here? Was it on the court, or in the classroom?
Jefferson: I think a little of both. In class you learn a lot about life. On the court, you learn there are a lot of great players out there. Some may be the best ever. It shows you what it's going to be like on the next level.
OGFP: When you talk about great players, who has been your toughest matchup?
Jefferson: I think Erica (Arriaran).
OGFP: You were defending a point guard?
Jefferson: I was on her for like two possessions, then jumped back off (laughs). She was the toughest one so far. She's so hard to guard. She's a great player and I hope she goes somewhere she likes because she's a great person.
OGFP: What do you take away from guarding someone like Erica?
Jefferson: That I need to be quicker. I HAVE to be quicker. Because I'm going to be on the perimeter in college and I'm going to have to guard guards. I'm going to have to get quicker to guard people like her.
OGFP: Who is your roommate here. Star (Allen)?
Jefferson: Yeah, Star's my roommate. And Kasi (Mullins) from Kentucky.
OGFP: You mentioned a hope that Erica would find a program she liked. When you look at colleges, do you focus on the academic side first? Or, do you choose the best athletic programs first, then narrow it down in terms of academics?
Jefferson: Definitely academics. I want to have something to fall back on later in life. My goals aren't to look straight to the WNBA. I want something on my own -- my own business. Broadcasting or something like that. I don't want to focus on just the basketball aspect. The academic side is what I look for first, like if the school has my major. Then I look at the basketball part. Will I play? Will I make an effect? Do I fit in? Stuff like that.
OGFP: Is broadcasting what you want to major in?
Jefferson: I want to major in communications. I like being in front of the camera and talking.
OGFP: Most colleges with a schools of Liberal Arts will have a communication major, so that should make your pool of choices much bigger than, say, going into chemical engineering. Have you visited any schools unofficially?
Jefferson: Four I think. I went to the University of Kentucky and Michigan. I went to Purdue. And I went to Auburn.
OGFP: Auburn sticks out like a geographical sore thumb. Were you guys down there for a tournament?
Jefferson: In Atlanta, actually. Our coach drove to Alabama. From Altanta is was about an hour and a half.
OGFP: What were your impressions of Purdue?
Jefferson: I liked it. The first thing that popped out at me was, are those really the coaches there? Kristy Curry and Kelly Curry -- at first I didn't even know they were married. They don't act like coaches. I think some coaches have this demeanor, like 'I'm the coach and I mean business'. They were so laid back and they made me feel so welcomed. I was so relaxed there. It is so intimidating to have a coach that thinks 'I'm a coach'. But Kristy and Kelly seem just like regular people.
OGFP: Purdue has a staff member from the state of Ohio, Jannon Roland. Did you know her before you visited Purdue?
Jefferson: Actually she was one of my counselors at a camp in Ohio, so I knew her and knew her background.
OGFP: I just spoke with another player from your home state, Marshae Dotson. You aren't on the same AAU team, yet do you know her very well?
Jefferson: I really got to know her better when we were in Colorado. I knew of her before and she knew who I was. In Colorado we hung out a lot together and we're real cool right now.
OGFP: Someone else you know is Myia McCurdy, who plays on the Queen City younger team. Something happened to her this spring. Did she blow out her knee?
Jefferson: She tore her ACL or her MCL. Something like that.
OGFP: That happened right at the beginning of the AAU season, didn't it?
Jefferson: The first day of practice I think.
OGFP: Getting back on the topic of schools, any other programs you want to visit?
Jefferson: I want to take all my officials, but I'm not sure where I am right now. My list just adds on and adds on. But I don't really have a list yet.
OGFP: But when you are ready to make a decision, it will likely be after you take all of your official visits?
Jefferson: I'm hoping before our high school basketball season, or maybe a little after.
OGFP: A question I ask a lot when talking with players is about superstitions. Some players only eat a certain meal before a game. Purdue had a player who would eat a jar of pickles before a game...
Jefferson: ...you're kidding.
OGFP: They broke her of that. But being wrapped up in sports myself from an early age, especially baseball which is a highly superstitious game, I find it interesting to hear about people's pre-game rituals and superstitions.
Jefferson: I do pray. I pray before every game. I guess that's really not a superstition, but I am superstitious off the court. Like splitting poles. It's bad luck. I don't like doing that.
NOTE: In all my opportunities to ask this question, I had never heard of "splitting poles". Aisha explained it as walking around light poles. For instance, when a group of people approaches an object like a light pole or tree, then entire group has to pass on the same side of the object. When some leave the group and pass the object around the opposite side, that is called "splitting poles". And it is bad luck, similar to passing under a ladder.