Five days before the draft, Cory Jefferson got a phone call from his Baylor teammate, Isaiah Austin. The two had hoped to be selected in the draft and play in the NBA this year. As Jefferson recounts to Mike Mazzeo, the call turned out to be more than the normal banter between the two. It was deadly serious.
"I remember when he told me that he couldn’t play. It was a Saturday night, five days before the draft. He told me he wasn’t going to play anymore, and I went right over to see him," said Jefferson. "We just talked -- talked about everything -- but he’s definitely turned it into a positive thing, gotten his story out and helped people however he can."
Austin was ceremonially drafted by the NBA that Thursday night in the first round. He was called to the stage by Adam Silver and got photographed with the commissioner. It was a total surprise that produced the Draft's most emotional moment. Jefferson had to wait a lot longer, until the last pick in the draft, when the Nets selected him with the Spurs pick which it had acquired for $300,000.
Not long after, he tells Mazzeo, he had to decide on a number. He chose No. 21, Austin's number at Baylor.
"I didn’t tell him," said Jefferson, who wore No. 34 in college. "I just did it. He liked it, just being able to see No. 21 still out there. Like I said, it means a lot more to me now."
Wednesday night, the Celtics honored Austin for his courage and presented him with a framed No. 21 jersey. And Jefferson playing his first NBA game scored eight points and grabbed two rebounds in nine minutes with Austin watching.
All in all, a good night for the two teammates. "[Cory’s] a guy that’s really worked to get where he is, and I’m really happy for him," Austin said. "Because he really deserves it."
No. 21 binds Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York