By Zach Braziller
Athlete of the Week
Jeffrey Short has the same cornrows, the same muscular and lean build.
Looks, however, can be deceiving — because Short is, in fact, very different.
The John F. Kennedy senior may be the most improved player in the city, a 6-foot-5 forward with limitless range that has added an aggressive streak to his once tame game.
In five victories, he has yet to score less than 26 points while averaging 15 rebounds and five assists. When star point guard Naquan Pierce missed JFK’s opener, Short put together a complete effort – 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. He had a career-high 43 points in the PSAL Tip-Off Classic on Sunday, leading Kennedy past McKee/Staten Island Tech, 84-67.
In that breathtaking performance, he personally turned the game himself, scoring 16 second-quarter points to eliminate a six-point deficit. He hit five 3-pointers, one longer than the next, including one as he was pushed into the opposing team’s bench.
He has begun to receive Division I interest from Saint Peter’s, LIU, Hofstra, and Seton Hall.
“He certainly can shoot the ball and shooting remains basketball’s EZ Pass,” recruiting guru Tom Konchalski said.
Short has become more aggressive, which began in the offseason. He played with teammate Naquan Pierce on the AAU Metrohawks, facing elite competition. He also worked out constantly with assistant coaches Star Jones and Chris Gonzalez, diligently improving his ball handling and confidence around the basket.
Coach Johnny Mathis points to last year’s loss in the PSAL Class AA championship game to four-time champion Lincoln as a turning point. Short, who had struggled in the playoffs, didn’t receive much playing time that day. Early in the game, Railsplitters star Lance Stephenson (now at Cincinnati) ripped the ball away from Short near midcourt, stormed the basket and threw down a dunk.
“That embarrassed him and made him wake up,” Mathis said. “That one play changed his whole attitude.”
The difference can also be traced to experience. Short didn’t play varsity basketball his first two years at Kennedy because of poor grades. He didn’t crack the starting lineup until last January. Last season was almost like a feeling-out process for him. Now he knows the terrain, and has to show Kennedy’s inexperienced underclassmen the way.
“I have to step up,” he said. “I know if I don’t have confidence, my young teammates won’t have confidence.”