One of the most exciting things about Arizona men’s basketball this season might be watching Wildcat freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. If all goes as planned this year, as the sixth man coming off the bench, Hollis-Jefferson will be known for his tenacious defense and relentless hustle.
At 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, Arizona hasn’t had a defender with his athleticism and size since Andre Iguodala.
Hollis-Jefferson is expected to contribute in scoring, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks, and provides an enthusiastic and positive attitude that the team will be able to rally around.
In his first game as a Wildcat against Augustana, Hollis-Jefferson was the leading scorer among freshmen with 10 points and was one of five Wildcats to have put up double digits during the exhibition match. He shot just 2-for-7 from the field, contributed with three rebounds and steals and was sent to the free throw line a team-leading nine times, which accounted for six of his points.
Despite the uncharacteristic performance in his first live college action, he is expected to shake off the nerves and make a larger impact as the season progresses.
Before becoming a Wildcat, the Chester, Pa., native finished his high school career with more than 1000 points and a school-record 780 rebounds. He was rated as the No. 5 small forward in his class, and No. 21 overall by ESPN.com. Over his final three seasons at Chester High School, Hollis-Jefferson led the team to a 91-5 overall record, earning state titles in 2011 and 2012. In his senior year, he averaged 15.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game.
He possesses quick feet and will be able to guard any spot on the perimeter, making him one of the most versatile defenders in the lineup. His abilities stem from his 7-foot wingspan, which allows him to be a lock-down defender, capable of guarding an opponent’s best player at any given notice.
Earlier this year, Hollis-Jefferson participated in the 2013 McDonald’s All-American Game, where his elite defensive abilities shone, allowing him to successfully force a 10-second violation against the other team. He additionally impressed at the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit, where he was added to Team USA specifically to help defend the No. 1 ranked player in his class, Andrew Wiggins.
He is an excellent rebounder and will be looked at to extend possessions with his rebounding ability.
In addition to his elite defensive capabilities, Hollis-Jefferson also excels in his passing game, setting up his teammates by feeding them the ball when they are in position to score. He should perform well alongside scoring-minded guards like Gabe York and Jordin Mayes.
While he currently doesn’t possess much of a consistent jump shot, he should develop one over this season.
Regardless of how under-publicized Hollis-Jefferson is, he can step up and become the team’s X-factor this year, similar to Kevin Parrom last year. He will be the Wildcats’ go-to guy in breaking the zone.
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17