It’s full speed ahead for Hollis-Jefferson and unbeaten Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson grabbed the rebound and proceeded to go coast-to-coast for what turned out to be an ill-fated, high-degree-of-difficulty layup against Colorado.
All of a sudden the rangy, 6-foot-7 forward with long arms was acting like a do-everything guard, begging the question as to whether Arizona coach Sean Miller could envision Hollis-Jefferson as a two-guard.
No, Miller said, accompanied by a look of "are you crazy?"
But then, out of the mouth of starting shooting guard Nick Johnson, came that it’s "something that Rondae has been working on, learning the two so we can present a bigger lineup. It helps us rebound a lot better.
"Over the last few games we hadn’t been rebounding up to our standards," Johnson said. "Maybe that’s something coach throws in there to get back to our ways."
Not happening. Big lineups or small lineups, Jefferson, Arizona’s high-energy, super-motor guy will stay at small forward and act like a power forward … with guard tendencies.
"Rondae is very confident," Miller said. "He’s very sure of himself on the court."
He knows but one speed: Fast. He knows but one style: Aggressive.
"Size and motor and skill and toughness and shooting and all those fancy words come into play," said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak in describing Hollis-Jefferson. Krystkowiak’s Utes will be the next team to pin the first loss on the Wildcats on Sunday evening at McKale Center (FOX Sports 1, 6 p.m. MST). "Not just for him, but all those guys on the team. They are a handful."
Sounds like Hollis-Jefferson.
"We want him to be aggressive," Miller said on Thursday night when asked about that coast-to-coast play.
So, he will be — offensively and defensively. It’s Rondae’s way.
"A lot of kids think if they score 20 or 30, that they’re the best player out there," Hollis-Jefferson said. "I would say, you need to play defense. Coaches want guys that play defense, guys who are going to win them some games. I think I have a pretty good winning record."
Miller has oftened described Hollis-Jefferson as a "winner." He was part of consecutive state championship teams and a 91-5 record in his three seasons at Chester High in Chester, Pa. Now he’s added 19 more wins and not a single loss onto that record in his first year at Arizona.
Hollis-Jefferson has been a major factor in the 19-0 start as Arizona’s sixth man. If he’s not making the team better when he’s on the court, he’s making it better in practice, matching up against starters Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon.
"He’s a talented dude," said Ashley. "He’s more of a perimeter type, so that makes us step it up to guard him and step up our defensive game."
But the most common description of Hollis-Jefferson is aggressive. He plays with no fear.
"He’s aggressive on the fast break or whether it’s 5-on-5," Gordon said. "He’s aggressive all the time. It’s really hard to get a read on his tendencies because he can score in different ways. He has an awkward feel to his game because he’s awfully talented."
In a text earlier this season, former Arizona coach Lute Olson said Hollis-Jefferson reminded him of Andre Iguodala, a strong, athletic type who got to the basket often and developed a strong perimeter game. Hollis-Jefferson is headed there.
He reminds others of former UNLV player Stacey Augman, the long-armed star who made a name for himself because of his defense.
Hollis-Jefferson said he had "no idea" who Augman was, although had heard talk of the comparison when Augman was in McKale Center for December’s game between UNLV and Arizona.
Then again, Hollis-Jefferson said he really doesn’t model his game after anyone. He is who he is: A hardnosed player on the court and an affable teammate off of it.
"He’s goofy," guard Gabe York said. "Fun-spirited.
"He’s always trying to joke around. He tries to make the best of every situation. If he’s not having fun, his game isn’t going to show. I think that’s what this team was sort of missing last year. We all got a little too serious once the Pac-12 came around."