Frank Speziale Photo
NORWICH – Towering above most on the high school basketball court – standing at a 6’6” – the Norwich community anxiously awaited the announcement of who would make the New York State Sports Writers Association All-State list for boys basketball.
That announcement came on Wednesday, April 12, and and with the official release of the All-State honors, Norwich senior Chris Jeffrey’s name could be seen as clear as day.
Jeffrey was named to the New York State Class B fourth team, an accomplishment that he held in high esteem – as it came at the heels of an injury plagued junior campaign.
Not only did Jeffrey offer up a stat line , averaging 13 points per game, with 11 rebounds per game – he impressively acted as the Purple Tornado’s leading scorer throughout the playoffs.
“It made me feel like I needed to prove myself and gave me motivation to play hard,” said Jeffrey when speaking of his injury during his junior season. “It’s an honor being recognized for what I have done on the basketball court.”
Some would think that coming back from an injury the year prior, and hoping to will your team to another Section IV Championship would mean the pressure would build as the season progressed. Not for Jeffrey, Jeffrey had a unique way of handling any pressure – chicken cutlets.
“Being the leading scorer during sectionals didn’t put any pressure on me, I just played my game,” said Jeffrey before offering up some insight into how he handled each game. “I never had much of a routine, just eat chicken cutlet, take a nap, get my ankles taped, and play.”
It wasn’t all positive for the Norwich Purple Tornado – who finished the season with a 17-5 overall record en route to yet another Section IV Championship, among a number of other accolades – as Norwich’s playoff hopes were growing slim halfway through the season.
The Tornado suffered a three-game losing streak – dropping back-to-back-to-back games to Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, Union-Endicott, and Johnson City. At the time of the first loss to VVS on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 Norwich was undefeated and announced as a state-ranked team. Then VVS came to town, ruining the holiday weekend, upsetting Norwich 64-52 – seemingly sending the team into a downward spiral.
“Least favorite part of the season was our three-game skid,” said Jeffrey.
And what did Jeffrey do to remove his team from that three-game skid? Well, Jeffrey rallied with his teammates to correct the wrongs, earning a 61-51 victory on the road over the Blue Devils of Chenango Forks.
Norwich was led in scoring on the day by Dashawn King (NYSWAA All-State Honorable Mention) who racked up 21 points for the Tornado in that game. Norwich also enjoyed solid teamwork in scoring in that pivotal road win – with Chris Jeffrey, Marcus Benjamin, and Tre Bonham each snagging eight points, while Michael Carson scored 11.
Teamwork helped Norwich pick themselves up, teamwork set Norwich off the path of a three-game losing streak and corrected them toward a dominant run through the Section IV playoffs – earning a New York State tournament berth.
Jeffrey led Norwich in scoring all three games played in the Section IV tournament – snagging a team-high 20 points against Newark Valley on Feb. 25, 2017; and a team-high 21 points against Susquehanna Valley on March 1.
Jeffrey looked unstoppable, and proving to truly be a thorn in the side of the Wolverines during the Section IV Championship game, Jeffrey snagged a game-high 17 points with 20 rebounds – as the Purple Tornado took Floyd L. Maines Arena by storm, winning the Section IV Championship – upsetting the state-ranked Waverly Wolverines in the process at 49-35.
“Favorite moments were winning the Section IV title, the parade after winning the Section IV title , and senior night,” said Jeffrey recounting the high moments of his 2016-2017 senior season. “The Section IV title really brought our team and our community together. It was a huge accomplishment being the underdogs going in, and that’s what made it feel so much better.”
Norwich would be bounced from the state tournament in their following game, losing to Westhill of Section III – ending the storied high school basketball career of Jeffrey, a three-year player on the Tornado squad.
Who would have thought, that at just six year’s old Jeffrey would first pick up a basketball and begin his journey to helping lead Norwich to their fifth Section IV crown in six seasons.
“I got into basketball because my parents noticed I had skill for the game from playing on a mini-hoop from a young age,” said Jeffrey. “Frustrating would be the correct word to describe the loss to Westhill, I wasn’t getting the ball much and we were forcing a lot of bad shots.”
What’s next for Jeffrey? Well none-other than some more basketball. Jeffrey has committed to go to St. Lawrence University in the fall of 2017. While at St. Lawrence, Jeffrey will be a member of their basketball program, while also choosing to major in business and economics.
“I would like to thank my teammates, coaches, family, and the community for their support throughout my high school career which has helped me to achieve success.”
With college on the horizon for Jeffrey, it is notable to mention that being named to the Class B All-State fourth team was not the lone award or accomplishment Jeffrey received due to his stellar senior year.
Jeffrey was also named Co-Player of the year by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York (BCANY) – alongside Waverly’s Hunter Bodine. Along with the BCANY nod, Jeffrey earned a spot as a STAC East All-Star, was named to the Press & Sun Bulletin Elite 10 Team, and was named Co-MVP of the NHS squad – alongside fellow Norwich senior’s Tre Bonham and Dashawn King.