By Ted Parrish
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
As a senior at Killeen High School, Cory Jefferson averaged 19.5 points and six rebounds a game while earning Texas Association of Basketball Coaches All-State honors and 4-A player of the year. He was also the all-time leading shot blocker in Killeen High School history.
But when Cory signed his letter of intent to play basketball at Baylor in 2009 he knew that getting playing time right away would be very hard.
"When I got to Baylor I was already competing with two future draft picks in Ekpe [Udoh] and Quincy [Acy]," Jefferson explained. "I knew it was going to be difficult, but I also knew it would make me better."
After Jefferson played only four minutes a game his freshman year and averaged one point and one rebound, head coach Scott Drew decided to redshirt him.
"Redshirting Cory gave him a chance to really grow as a player," said Drew. "We have a great staff that was able to help Cory improve in every facet of his game."
Cory was also successful in the classroom his freshman year. A sociology major with a minor in criminal justice, he earned a spot on the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll in the fall of 2009.
As a redshirt sophomore at Baylor in the 2011-2012 season, Jefferson's numbers improved only slightly. He played in 33 games as a reserve and made one start while averaging four points and three rebounds. He posted his first career double-double against Texas Southern scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in only 19 minutes, but that was the high point of his year.
"Even though I didn't play very many minutes I really felt like I improved as a basketball player," Cory said. "I was able to get a lot of blocks and rebound the ball pretty well."
All of Jefferson's hard work and patience was about to pay off in a big way. He was able to win a place in the starting lineup before the first game of the 2012-2013 season and impressed everyone. Cory scored 26 points on 75 percent shooting and pulled down 13 rebounds in a win over Lehigh.
"I was pretty nervous going into the Lehigh game, but I was able to go out there and play loose and have fun," Jefferson said. "It was very exciting to finally earn that starting spot."
Cory's performance in the Lehigh game helped earn him Big 12 Player of the Week honors when he averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for the week of Nov. 12.
Thirteen games into the season, Cory leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage (65.8 percent) and is ranked in the top two in rebounding (8.6) and blocked shots (2.29) per game. His teammates have not let it go unnoticed either.
"Cory has been great, he can do it all. He rebounds and he scores. When he is aggressive he is very hard to guard and even harder to keep off the glass," Pierre Jackson, Baylor's senior point guard, said. "He is a very valuable part of this team. We probably wouldn't have half of the wins without him. He has really grown up."
Cory believes that the sky is the limit for this Baylor team and he wouldn't be surprised if he and his teammates make a deep run into March Madness.
"I think we can go all the way. We are finally coming together as a unit and getting better at our defense and cutting down on our turnovers," Cory said. "We have great guard play and great post play. We should be able to do it."