TUCSON, Ariz. - Former University of Arizona menˇ?s basketball player Richard Jefferson pledged Friday to donate $3.5 million to the schoolˇ?s athletic department.
Jeffersonˇ?s donation is the lead gift towards phase two of a construction project that will include a new $14 million basketball/volleyball practice facility. The facility, currently under construction, will bear Jeffersonˇ?s name.
"I am pleased and blessed to be able to make this gift to an institution that has done so much to help me," said Jefferson. "For an Arizona kid like me to be able to give something back to the University of Arizona is very special."
The gift is one of the largest individual donations to the University of Arizona athletic department and is also believed to be the largest ever given by a current professional athlete to his alma mater.
"This is a tremendous day for Wildcat Athletics," said Jim Livengood, University of Arizona director of athletics. "I cannot give enough thanks to Richard for his generosity in making a difference for our student-athletes both now and in the future."
A native of Phoenix, Jefferson was a three-year letterwinner for the Wildcats from 1998-2001. During his 84-game career (77 starts), Jefferson averaged 11.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He capped his career by leading Arizona to the 2001 national championship game. Along the way, Jefferson was an all-Midwest Regional and all-Final Four selection. He was the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft.
"Richard has always been a stand-up guy, "said Arizona head coach Lute Olson. "For him to make this kind of statement about how much he cares for this program speaks volumes to Richardˇ?s character. This is a very, very generous gift."
Ready to begin his seventh season with the NBAˇ?s New Jersey Nets, Jefferson has career averages of 16.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Heˇ?s helped the Nets to the playoffs in each of six pervious seasons with the club. Jefferson was a 2001-02 NBA all-Rookie second-team selection.
He played for Team USA in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece and was also a member of the 2003 USA Basketball Menˇ?s Senior National Team which won gold in the 2003 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico.