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Jeff Ledbetter arrived in Salt Lake City by a road less traveled

The unconventional style of the 3-point wizard permeates his journey both on and off the court.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - San Antonio Spurs v Toronto Raptors Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

If you are an avid Spurs Summer League fan, then you are acquainted with Jeff Ledbetter. The thirty-one year old sharpshooter spent the last three summers with the San Antonio Spurs and rejoined the squad this year in Utah.

A quick Google search of “Jeff Ledbetter” is more likely to take you to a minor baseball player who at one time held the NCAA record with 42 season home runs.

This Jeff Ledbetter has trudged the road not typically taken in basketball and shaped a career not despite the difference, but because of it. For starters, his lack of internet presence makes searching for him the web equivalent of a yeti. Not a common look in modern sports. But rest assured, a little research and a couple of friendly conversations with the man himself will put the pieces together.

Ledbetter began playing college ball at Irvine Valley Community College where he was a first team all-Orange Empire Conference selection. He led the Lasers with 13.7 points, dishing out 2.7 assists, nabbing 2.1 steals per game, and striking 38% from beyond the arc.

After two seasons, Jeff transferred to the University of Idaho and joined the Vandals basketball program. In his first season, he came off the bench averaging 2.9 points per game in just over 11 minutes. One year later, Ledbetter was a starter contributing 12.8 points per game and an impressive 45.4 three-point percentage. And in the game of basketball, one year can make a world of difference.

Going undrafted in 2011, Ledbetter first headed overseas to Switzerland for training camp but left before ever hitting the court. He then moved across the Atlantic to play in Brazil with Vila Velda for one season. After his South American excursion, Jeff took a year off and returned to his native California where he ran his own business as a personal trainer in the now defunct Yorba Linda Fitness. He thought he was all but done with basketball until he got a call from Mexico. He joined the Los Jefes Fuerza Lagunera, or the Chiefs of the Lagunera Force, followed by the Pioneers of Delights, and eventually Lobos UAD of Mazatlan.

But it was a connection from back home that brought Ledbetter to the Austin Spurs. In 2016, assistant coach and trainer A.J. Diggs talked to Andy Birdsong and that led to an invite to an open tryout for the Austin Spurs where he’s played three seasons, including the 2018 G-League Championship season.

“That was just unreal from a chemistry standpoint. We just had so many guys that knew how to play, that played the right way . . . we knew we were clicking . . . we hit our stride and Derrick went up another notch and just turned it on and that kid was just unstoppable . . . it was fun . . . lot of team dinners, we spent a lot of time together . . . that’s why it was so special, we were able to stay together.”

He started 2018-19 with the Austin Spurs but left mid-season when Mexico’s Cuauhtemoc Manzaneros came calling.

Meanwhile, Ledbetter’s last team posted a welcome on Facebook:

Después de tres años de ausencia, Jeff Ledbetter, uno de los mejores jugadores extranjeros que a venido a la Liga de Básquetbol Estatal está de regreso con Manzaneros de Cuauhtémoc éste 2019. Gratos recuerdos dejó en su estancia con el equipo de Pioneros de Delicias, donde se convirtió en uno de los consentidos de la afición. Ledbetter es originario de Fullerton, California actualmente pertenece a la plantilla de los Austin Spurs de la Liga de Desarrollo de la NBA. A nivel colegial jugó dos años en el pequeño community college de Irvine Valley, donde lideró a los Lasers en la segunda temporada, promediando 13,7 puntos, 3,6 rebotes y 2,7 asistencias por partido. En 2009 fue transferido a la NCAA, a los Vandals de la Universidad de Idaho, donde jugó sus dos últimas temporadas de universitario, en las que promedió 8,0 puntos, 2,1 rebotes, 1,4 asistencias y 1,0 robos de balón por partido. En 2011 fue incluido en el segundo mejor quinteto de la Western Athletic Conference. Inició su carrera profesional en el CETAF/Vila Velha de la Novo Basquete Brasil, donde en 21 partidos disputados promedió 5,6 puntos. De ahí marchó a Suiza, regresando al contiente americano para jugar en ligas menores de México, en los Pioneros de Delicias de la Liga de Básquetbol Estatal de Chihuahua y en los Jefes Fuerza Lagunera, donde promedió 12,3 puntos y 4,3 rebotes por partido, antes de fichar por los Nauticos UAD de Mazatlán de la CIBACOPA en 2015. En su primera temporada en el equipo mexicano promedió 15,9 puntos y 2,4 asistencias por partido, y tras su finalización, comenzó a compatibilizar su aparición en la CIBACOPA con la NBA Development League en los meses de invierno y primavera, tras probar y ser admitido por los Austin Spurs. En su primera temporada en el equipo texano promedió 9,6 puntos y 2,2 asistencias por partido. En la temporada 2017-2018 se proclamó campeón de liga con los Spurs. En julio de 2018 firmó con el MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg de la Basketball Bundesliga alemana, pero no fructificó finalmente, volviendo a ser reclamado en el mes de octubre por los Spurs. #AB656

Posted by Alianzabasket on Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The message below reads:

Después de tres años de ausencia, Jeff Ledbetter, uno de los mejores jugadores extranjeros que a venido a la Liga de Básquetbol Estatal está de regreso con Manzaneros de Cuauhtémoc éste 2019. Gratos recuerdos dejó en su estancia con el equipo de Pioneros de Delicias, donde se convirtió en uno de los consentidos de la afición.

Which translates to:

After three years of absence, Jeff Ledbetter, one of the best foreign players to come to the State Basketball League is back with Manzaneros de Cuauhtémoc this 2019. Pleasant memories left in his stay with the team of Pioneers of Delights, where he became one of the favorites of the fans.

Because of his work ethic and attitude, Jeff was asked to return for the 2019 Summer League,

“I have a really close relationship with everyone in the [Spurs] organization, and they said ‘hey, you want to come back and play in the Summer League?’ To be around these great basketball minds and learn as much as you can. It was definitely a no-brainer.”

Jeff finished the 3-day stint in Salt Lake City averaging 8 points per game. Each day, audiences were calling him by name and showing love and support. The team spent that leg of the summer under Austin Spurs coach Blake Ahern, with whom Ledbetter is quite familiar.

“I’ve had a little history with Utah, got a lot of people here that are, you know, the homies, so I heard them pregame and definitely heard them.”

He continued with the Spurs traveling on Independence Day as they headed down to Las Vegas for the longer Summer League tournament, which was coached by Becky Hammon. Jeff shared that no matter who is coaching, the Spurs system doesn’t change.

“It’s the same thing, the same principals, the same way to play. They are really good at doing that no matter who is coaching, who is stepping in, we know [what] the expectations are no matter who is there. Whether it’s Pop or whatever, there’s a certain way and a certain level you carry yourself on and off the court.”

Following Summer League, Ledbetter will return to Utah from July 25-27, joining Team Fredette (named for BYU legend Jimmer) in the The Basketball Tournament, or TBT, where a $2M prize awaits the winner of a 64-team, single elimination series.

Ledbetter has recently enlisted the services of Charles Misuraca at Slash International and is fielding offers from perspective teams while enjoying his time on the court with the Spurs.

So whether in a Spurs jersey, back in Mexico, or even a jaunt overseas next season, you can be assured that Jeff Ledbetter will be playing basketball.

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