April 08, 2015
After a successful two-year career at the University of Arizona, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson decided he wants to start making money. At a press conference in Tucson on Tuesday afternoon, the Chester High School product announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft (via Arizona Daily Star):
“The greatest compliment 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,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller told reporters.
That quote reminds me of talking to Sam Hinkie last year when he was just starting out as the Sixers’ primary decision maker, and one of my major takeaways was how much time he spent interviewing college managers, trainers, etc. in hopes of gaining a clearer picture on a given prospect’s character. After doing some more research on the subject, I discovered the Sixers aren’t even close to the only front office that meticulously investigates players’ backgrounds.
I bring this up because to the best of my knowledge, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will receive rave reviews from everyone he came in contact with during that process.
A few years ago, I wrote a feature on Chester’s basketball tradition for the Daily News when Hollis-Jefferson was headlining the Clippers as a senior. He was a pleasure to interview, a great kid. When the subject of the city’s competitive youth basketball program (aka the Biddy League) came up, he mentioned only winning one championship from the ages of 5-12. Since then, all Hollis-Jefferson has done is win. In a four-year high school career, he led “The High” to two PIAA Class AAAA state titles as well as a runner-up finish.
Out in the desert, Hollis-Jefferson’s Arizona teams went a combined 67-9 and made two Elite Eight appearances, falling to Wisconsin and fellow Chester native Bo Ryan on both occasions. At the risk of sounding like Skip Bayless fawning over Tim Tebow, the 20-year-old has showcased the ability to aid winning teams in his career. Those types of intangibles aren’t everything, but they’re also not nothing.
“First of all, before he ever showed up here, he won multiple state championships in Pennsylvania playing in Chester and that was a big reason that we wanted to bring him here with us,” Miller said.
The same line of thinking will likely run though general managers’ minds once draft season rolls around. As an NBA prospect, the 6-foot-7 swingman is ranked 23rd in the 2015 class by Draft Express and 26th by ESPN. Hollis-Jefferson’s strengths mainly lie on the defensive end of the floor, where he can use his length and versatility to guard every position on the floor. In the NCAA Tournament, he swallowed up Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell and credibly defended Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky:
Hollis-Jefferson’s offense is the reason why he’s not slotted to be a lottery pick as of this moment. His shooting mechanics are really funky, and I believe that his jumper will ultimately prove to be his swing skill. If it improves, he’ll be a steal; if it doesn’t, there’s a ceiling on how good he can be. Hollis-Jefferson only shot 6-29 from beyond the arc this year, but shimmied his way to 70 percent shooting from the free-throw line. Maybe he can make the necessary improvements over time.
“It’s not every day a kid where I’m from gets an opportunity like [playing at Arizona], Hollis-Jefferson told reporters on Tuesday.
It’s not quite every day, but Chester is already repped by Jameer Nelson and Tyreke Evans at the highest level. Later this year, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will join them and become the next NBA player who grew up in the hoops hotbed in between I-95 and the Delaware River.