It eventually helped Jeffers escape a sometimes-scary scene and earn a spot in the NBA. Now, he added, "I'm just living a dream (for) the rest of my family who played ball and didn't make it."
Despite painful moments, Jeffers has plenty of good memories from the Windy City.
He recalled — while smiling, it should be noted — watching the Jazz play the Bulls in the NBA Finals from the TV set in his apartment in the same city as the United Center.
He also heard all about the "Original Bull" who now happens to be his head coach."He's the one," Jeffers said of Sloan, "they talk about how if you want to make it or get close to the league, you've got to start by playing like him: hard-nosed, defense. ... It's funny I'm here with him."
Jeffers seems to have heeded the advice of those who lauded the tenacious play of the first Bulls player to get his jersey retired. Similar to Sloan's style, the versatile swing player and athletic power forward describes himself as being a "hard-nosed player, defensive-minded first," but added that "when it's time to put the ball in the hole and it's my turn, it's time to go."
Jeffers met his new teammates for the first time Friday — the morning after they rallied from 13 points down to stun the Suns 116-108 in Phoenix — when the Jazz had a workout to help their newest undrafted rookie become familiar with the system.
He comes in with a connection, though. Deron Williams played with a couple of Jeffers' high school buddies, Luther Head and ex-Jazz guard Dee Brown, at the University of Illinois.
"I guess it's my time to play with the third amigo," Jeffers joked.
He also knows ex-Celtic Antoine Walker from Chicago and was well aware of the legacy left behind in his West Side neighborhood by former resident Isiah Thomas. In fact, Jeffers said an autographed pair of the Hall of Fame point guard's basketball shoes are still strung out on an electrical line for all to see.
Jeffers reflected on the significance of those symbolic shoes in relation to his plight. It's pretty special now for him to be able to say, "Hey, I made the NBA like him."
The Jazz's fifth D-League player laughed and added, "It's time for me to throw a pair up there."
GAME NOTE:Andrei Kirilenko, who crashed hard to the floor Thursday after being pushed from behind by Robin Lopez, is expected to be ready to play tonight, a team spokesman said. The small forward, who's recently missed multiple games with back spasms, soaked his back in a spa Friday but did not receive any other treatment.
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