LAS VEGAS – Former Idaho standout Jeff Ledbetter still hasn’t suited up for an NBA team during a regular season.
But since going undrafted in 2011, the hard-nosed, 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard should be considered a basketball journeyman.
The Brea, California, native has played in Brazil, Switzerland and Mexico. He’s had a couple of stints in the NBA G League and he’s working on his second year with the San Antonio Spurs’ summer league team.
Yet for a guy who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, he’s quite content with the path he’s chosen and his growth since lighting up the scoreboard as a sharpshooter for the Vandals.
After his two years at Idaho, Ledbetter played outside the United States before returning to the U.S. in 2015 and joined the Austin Spurs after a successful tryout in Round Rock, Texas.
He helped the team win the G League championship this past season, averaging 11.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 44 games.
Although he hasn’t played alongside the regular-season Spurs, he said playing for an organization like that has made him feel a part of the family. He’s been able to improve his game to get to the next level, whether it’s overseas or the G League.
“Since I’ve been there, it’s just felt right,” Ledbetter said. “It just felt like you belonged. They made me feel comfortable there. The history obviously speaks for itself and the style of play and the way they play definitely speaks for itself.”
His age and maturity have turned him into a natural leader for younger guys and allowed him to share what he’s experienced, especially when training with random NBA players during the summer.
Just as veterans such as Klay Thompson have helped him, he has tried to help the rookies on the Spurs’ summer team get used to the style of play and teach them that it’s a lot different than college. He also lets them know that he’s still lingering around, and able to pursue his dream because of hard work.
“It’s a lot of trying to get yourself in the right situation, a lot of its timing, but just consistent work,” Ledbetter said. “Those days in the summer when no one is watching, that’s that year-round grind. We see what’s out there during the season, but it’s a year-round job, and so it’s a lot of hours in the gym and just constant work and just staying with it.”
He also credits time spent in a gym for weightlifting and focusing on the proper nutrition. He said it’s one of the biggest things he talks to rookies about, having that longevity with your career and getting it from living a healthy lifestyle.
“Taking care of yourself with the stretch and the rolling out – the little things, just building good habits when you’re younger – luckily I was able to do that,” Ledbetter said. “I had good people in my corner in high school and college that taught me that, and I was always intrigued in the diet side of things. Take care of your body at a young age and that leads to a longer career.”
Will Hardy, the Spurs’ summer league coach, said Ledbetter’s ability to be a leader off and on the court has been essential for many rookies who’ve come through the organization.
“Jeff is a guy who has a lot of respect from his teammates because every day he’s very professional,” Hardy said. “He competes every play, all the way to the last second. He can make shots on the offensive end, but really his toughness and competitiveness are things that really bleed over into the younger players. Jeff’s not the most athletic player in the world. His instincts and competitiveness still let him have a huge impact on the game.”
“I’m happy with where I’m at now, and I’m definitely glad I stuck with it and I’m having a lot of fun doing it,” Ledbetter said. “Everyone’s path is going to be different, you just don’t know. The timing and everything, it’s just right place, right time. Staying ready, keeping on your work and doing the right thing – good things will fall.”
W.G. Ramirez is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez