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How DJ Jefferson Became Tennessee’s Dunking Star

DJ Jefferson
Tennessee guard DJ Jefferson. Photo by RTI.

While Tennessee fans may not be as familiar with his work on the court just yet, Tennessee freshman DJ Jefferson has dazzled audiences throughout the year with his pre-game dunking abilities.

From windmill dunks to 360s to between the legs, Jefferson puts on a stunning spectacle before Tennessee games.

Originally from Richardson, Texas, Jefferson graduated from Minnesota Prep Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota. The 6-foot-5, 207-pound guard began his collegiate career by signing with Tulsa in November 2021 but would eventually be released and allowed to reopen his recruitment after a coaching staff change.

Jefferson signed with Tennessee as a four-star prospect in the class of 2022 and was a Top 75 prospect at the time, according to 247Sports.

As the 2022-2023 season began, spectators in the arena quickly became aware of Jefferson. It was hard not to, frankly, considering his dunking ability.

“If you’ve seen me in warm-ups, like, I can shoot, but I really don’t like shooting in warm-ups,” Jefferson said on Thursday after Tennessee’s second-round win in the SEC Tournament. “I like to put on a show.”

Every player on the Tennessee basketball team can dunk – we’ve seen it in action. And, yes, even Zakai Zeigler can throw it down. But what makes Jefferson so special at it? His ability to fly through the air while moving the ball around like a pinball until he throws it in the hoop.

Jefferson’s dunking prowess goes back to his days at Richardson High School.

“I could probably say it started my junior year,” Jefferson said. “That’s when I actually took dunking seriously. Because, I mean, I’ve always liked dunking. I used to watch Michael Jordan, LeBron James… I’ve just always liked to dunk!”

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Everything in life takes work to be successful at… including dunking. As Jefferson put it while talking to Rocky Top Insider, there’s almost an art to dunking. But even before that art comes hard work in just getting your body right.

“All it really took was just some lifting,” Jefferson said on Thursday. “Squats, box jumps, single-leg squats, jump-roping, stretching a lot, that comes with that, too.”

What started out as just getting to the hoop for fun in his high school days has turned into an all-out spectacle during Jefferson’s first year at Tennessee. The Vols implemented their “One Fly, We All Fly” routine a while back, which sees one Volunteer player throw down a big pregame dunk while everyone is jumping around them. As seen in the previous videos, Jefferson received that honor quite a few times throughout the season.

“I’ve always done basic dunks, like a one-hand or two-hand,” Jefferson said. “Then I started to do the windmill, then I started doing the 360, and then as I got older and my bounce started to evolve more, that’s when I started to be more creative. Doing 360 windmills or underneath the legs or behind the back, stuff like that.”

Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes announced back in November that Jefferson would be taking a redshirt year for the 2022-2023 season. Still, though, Jefferson is itching to make his mark on the Tennessee basketball program.

While it won’t be this year, there will eventually come a time when DJ Jefferson has a fast-break dunk in a game while wearing the Tennessee uniform. Does he have that dunk already mapped out?

“Of course!” Jefferson said. “One hundred percent.”

Five-seed Tennessee will take on four-seed Missouri in the 2023 SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday afternoon in Nashville, TN.

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