Wyoming’s Drake Jeffries ended his college career on one of the biggest stages of them all, competing in all-star festivities during national championship weekend following years of perseverance. That might be impressive, but Jeffries hopes it’s not the end of his journey as he is waiting to hear his name called during the NBA Draft on June 23 in Brooklyn.
“It would be an absolutely surreal feeling if I got drafted,” Jeffries told Mid-Major Madness, “If I can sneak my way onto a summer league team, that would be huge. Just being able to shoot the ball, space the floor, being a high-paid decoy, that’s definitely something that I could see myself doing.”
It wasn’t always easy for one of the nation’s top 3-point shooters. He started playing basketball at four years old and dominated throughout the early years of his life. In his high school years, kids started catching up to him and Jeffries wasn’t really improving.
That’s when a spark hit.
He began grinding and made Sky Ice Elite’s AAU team during his junior season. He continued improving, having another strong high school season to pair with AAU. Then, after being named two-time all-conference in basketball, only two NCAA schools came calling. One was Minot State which Jeffries would choose over Millikin University.
Jeffries would only play one season at Minot State before transferring to Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. It ultimately ended up being one of the best decisions in his young life.
“I give a lot of credit to him (IHCC head coach Hank Plona) in turning me into the player I am today because he was really really hard on all of us,” Jeffries said. “That year we went 30-3, and had nine guys go D1. We were the real deal. That was one hell of an experience; it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.”
There, Jeffries shined and showed his real 3-point prowess. In game one, he hit 5 of 6 trey tries. It was the first of seven times that Jeffries hit five-plus 3-pointers that season, finishing with a 44.8% percentage from distance.
It would culminate in Jeffries being named a three-star recruit by Rivals.com and with that, the long-awaited Division-I offers started coming in. Jeffries chose Wyoming over Arkansas State, Drake, Drexel, Indiana State, Mount St. Mary’s, Purdue Fort Wayne, Tennessee Tech, UAB and others. The hard work was only just beginning for the perseverant guard. It was once again one of the best choices of his life.
“I chose Wyoming because I liked Coach (Jeff) Linder’s system and what he had to offer,” Jeffries said. “Has definitely helped me put myself into the position that I am today.”
Jeffries wouldn’t have that large of a role in his first season in Laramie but had his moments.
Just like when he started at IHCC, Jeffries dominated in his first game. He attempted 15 3s and drain six of them. It was quickly shown what he was there to do, make 3s.
He would score 21 points against Utah Valley and score double-digits a couple of times in conference play but there was nothing too consistent for him and 3s weren’t falling at a rate he wanted. Jeffries finished the season hitting on 36.9% of his shots from behind the arch.
Along with the rest of the roster, Jeffries made adjustments after a 14-11 season. While a lot of the team returned in 2021-22, not many people were expecting what happened next. A team projected eighth in the preseason took that to heart, improved, and finished with a 25-9 record, making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid.
“We had a chip on our shoulder. We’re a lot better than this, we know what we can do, and a lot of people are overlooking us,” Jeffries said. “We wanted to go out and shock people.”
Wyoming did just that, jumping out with an 11-2 record. Their only losses were against Pac-12 foes Arizona and Stanford, while beating another in Washington. In a game against NAIA Hastings, Jeffries drained 11 of an NCAA single game record of 28 3-pointers. The win also happened to be one of five 20+ point wins for the Cowboys in the non-conference.
Wyoming would then start 4-0 start in Mountain West play and I as a journalist and basketball fan started getting intrigued. At the same time, I was beginning my helm as the administrator for the Mid-Major Madness Twitter and the Cowboys would face the only other unbeaten team in Mountain West play, Boise State. I made sure that I was going to let the world know that they need to watch this game.
The Cowboys lost 65-62 but Jeffries drained three big three-pointers that caught my eye. A week later when they played the second game of the season at Arena-Auditorium, the Cowboys won. There, Jeffries started tweeting at Mid-Major Madness and the Mountain West started getting more and more attention from the likes of Jon Rothstein.
“I think the whole social media, it’s always up and down. People love you and then they hate you,” Jeffries said.
He would continue to roll through the season, setting the Cowboys up for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after winning 23 games. Once again, it was not an easy path for the Cowboys as they lost four of six down the stretch, squarely putting them onto the bubble heading into the conference tournament.
There, Jeffries would do more than just play basketball. The man of many skills took pictures for Mid-Major Madness during the Air Force/Utah State game. A hobby that turned out to be a nice little side gig during the month of March.
“It’s been a fun experience, sad that I didn’t get to shoot more games,” Jeffries said, “Had a good time with that as well.”
We had a special guest photographer at the Air Force/Utah State game earlier today…— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) March 10, 2022
Wyoming Guard Drake Jeffries (@drakejeffries) took some time out of his busy day to take some pictures.
His tournament action starts on Thursday at 5:30 EST against UNLV. pic.twitter.com/RTrZnpTRSG
Wyoming would win their quarterfinal before heading back to Laramie where they had to wait it out on the bubble. When their name got called on Selection Sunday, it was pure joy and everything that Jeffries could’ve ever asked for.
“It was probably my biggest dream come true,” Jeffries said, “I was shaking the whole time and then St.Mary’s popped up and I knew it was a play-in game and a 12-seed. I knew we had a chance. My heart, I was able to relax after that for sure.”
The Cowboys would draw Indiana in that play-in game, meaning they instantly had to get on a flight to Dayton for a matchup with the Hoosiers two days later. Jeffries would only score four points in a loss, but it was an awesome experience.
A week or so later, the March experiences would grow as he got invited to play in the college three-point contest and 3x3U national championship, allowing himself to show his skill on a national stage amongst some of the best players that college basketball has to offer.
“That was definitely a top-tier experience,” Jeffries said, “I’m pretty sure one of my managers said that he could make more than me in the three-point contest. In 3x3, I got a little more redemption.”
Since then, Jeffries has been working out and getting ready for the NBA Draft. This week, he is performing in the NTX International Combine in Texas to prove to the scouts how skillful he is. He showed just that throughout the college basketball season, ranking 19th in fouls committed per 40, 22nd in the percentage of minutes played, and 34th in turnover rate on KenPom.
This will not be the last time he gets a workout leading up to the draft and don’t be shocked if you hear his name on draft day or throughout the summer league.