Rondae officially heads to NBA

Arizona men’s basketball forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson announced Tuesday he is forgoing his final two years of eligibility to enter the 2015 NBA Draft

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Kyle Hansen | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona men's basketball forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson announces his decision to enter the 2015 NBA Draft in McKale Center on Tuesday afternoon. Hollis-Jefferson spent two seasons as a Wildcat and was an integral member of back-to-back Elite Eight teams.

As was expected, Arizona men’s basketball forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been declared for the 2015 NBA Draft and has hired an agent.

“I would just like to say thank you to the city of Tucson and our great fans over the last two years,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “The love you guys have showed me has been overwhelming. It’s not every day a kid where I’m from gets blessed with an opportunity like this, and I’ve just tried to embrace it. With that being said, I’ve decided to enter my name in the 2015 NBA Draft.”

Hollis-Jefferson, who spent two seasons at Arizona and was an integral member of back-to-back Elite Eight teams, never lost a home game and won 67 total games. Not to mention, the Wildcats won back-to-back Pac-12 Conference Championships and won the program’s first Pac-12 tournament title since the early 2000s.

He averaged 9.75 points, 6.25 rebounds and 1.5 assists over his 76-game career at Arizona. Hollis-Jefferson had a breakout sophomore season in which he averaged 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and recorded four double-doubles.

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Hollis-Jefferson was named First-Team All-Pac-12, was selected to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team, was a finalist for the Karl Malone Award and was named an all-tournament selection to the EA Sports Maui invitational, the Pac-12 tournament and the NCAA West Regional.

Arizona coach Sean Miller said Hollis-Jefferson will be missed but is ready to take the leap into the NBA.

“You always hope when it comes to an end, it ends like this,” Miller said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed coaching a player more than I’ve enjoyed coaching Rondae. You know, I said this during the NCAA Tournament: The greatest compliment that you can pay these guys as their time ends is that, in our recruiting efforts in the future, that we look for guys like them, like him. … You’re on the hunt for the next Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.”

Hollis-Jefferson also announced he has signed with Mike George of Excel Sports Management and is planning to leave Tucson to begin training. However, he also said he will continue his classes online in order to graduate in the future.

Mass departure

While a team like Kentucky is expected to lose anywhere from five to seven guys from its team to the NBA Draft, Arizona could be right behind in terms of sheer numbers.

While only Hollis-Jefferson has declared so far, decisions loom for Brandon Ashley, Stanley Johnson and Kaleb Tarczewski on whether they will join Hollis-Jefferson as early entrants to the 2015 NBA Draft.

Miller said there’s no timetable for each to decide and will let them take time to announce their decisions.

“We want them to take their time and make their decision, … and once the decision is made, it’s easy and better for all of us to clarify,” Miller said. “We’ll start with Rondae, he’ll lead us off and we’ll go from there.”

Reports have surfaced over the past couple days that Ashley will declare, Tarczewski is leaning toward staying, and Johnson is torn between heading to the NBA or staying a Wildcat.

No concrete evidence has come out yet, but Miller said Ashley could be the next to announce his decision.

“Brandon is probably the next closest, and I think, hopefully, in the next couple days, he’ll have kind of his decision,” Miller said. “Again, what we try to do is provide as much information as these guys need and be as accurate in giving them the information and really support them on their decision.”

Preseason expectations

The 2014-2015 college basketball season may have just ended, but that hasn’t stopped sports media sites from already picking early top-25 rankings for next season.

ESPN has Arizona ranked 12th, Bleacher Report has Arizona ranked eighth and NBC Sports has the Wildcats ranked 10th. And that’s with the entire starting lineup projected to leave. 

It may be way too early to speculate, but it seems Arizona is in a good position to be ranked in the top 10 of preseason polls yet again.

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