While most of the spotlight has shined on Arizona’s potential starters, Wildcat fans will be delighted by one of the reserves, freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Hollis-Jefferson is a top 15 recruit that has somehow slid under the radar going into the 2013-14 season, but the 6’7 swing man’s defense and hustle will be an integral part of the upcoming season.
The Pennsylvania native is known first and foremost for his defense. With quick feet and tenacious pursuit of the ball, he is a lock down defender. Hollis-Jefferson can guard any spot on the perimeter, making him one of the most versatile defenders in the Pac-12 as a first year player. Along with Nick Johnson, he is capable of guarding the opposing team’s best player on any given night.
Hollis-Jefferson’s defensive ability cannot be understated. He is a ball hawk that sticks to offensive players like glue, and the Wildcats probably haven’t had a defender with his size and athleticism since Andre Iguodala or Richard Jefferson. And Hollis-Jefferson might be a better defender than either of them at this stage.
Don’t be surprised to see Hollis-Jefferson defend point guards, but don’t be surprised to see him mix it up down low either. At 215 lbs with great athleticism, he is very good around the basket and has the strength to be effective in the paint. He is crafty down low and has the length to score over bigger defenders.
That’s why RHJ is an excellent rebounder. He is great on the offensive glass and often extends possessions with his rebounding ability. Expect Hollis-Jefferson to contribute in the rebounding column from day one.
What makes Hollis-Jefferson truly special is his passing. He plays like a point forward, and has great vision when setting up teammates. He has a knack for finding his guys in position to score, and will be a welcome running mate for scoring-minded guards like Gabe York and Jordin Mayes.
Arizona has historically had some pretty good sixth men coming off the bench, but Hollis-Jefferson could be one of the best ever. Not only is he an elite athlete with tremendous defensive ability, he has the hustle and attitude to be a truly special player.
But on a roster as stacked as Arizona’s, playing time will be hard to come by. Don’t expect Hollis-Jefferson to log heavy minutes. What you should expect is all around production in scoring, rebounds, steals, assists, and blocks. Expect excellent defense fueled by hustle, and an infectiously positive personality that teammates will rally around.
Hollis-Jefferson has been criminally under publicized. But in today’s age of prep basketball where cameras frantically follow the nation’s youngest budding stars, maybe that’s a good thing. For a player like Hollis-Jefferson, with a workman-like attitude, all that’s needed is a hard hat, a lunch pail, and court to play on.