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April 24, 2014

Hollis-Jefferson embraces college life, puts NBA on hold

"Oh, Happy Day" is such a joy-filled song, so it was not a surprise Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson walked into the press conference announcing his plans to return for his sophomore season, with a smile on his face, expressing pure excitement at the idea of playing another year in Tucson.

Hollis-Jefferson's draft stock increased significantly over the course of his freshman season. He was a key reverse for Sean Miller's Elite Eight Wildcats, and professional scouts took a liking to the 6-7 forward.

Hollis-Jefferson entertained entering the 2014 NBA draft, and who could blame him? He displayed a prowess on both ends of the floor that could earn him a starting role on most other powerhouse teams in the nation.

In many cases today, it is hard to imagine such a talented young player passing up on the chance to be a first-round draft pick, but the energy-filled freshman is not most players.

Hollis-Jefferson cited the fans and his love for the city of Tucson as some of the deciding factors. The Chester, Pa., native is too busy enjoying college life when others are in a rush to leave.

"I just embrace all the love you get around town," Hollis-Jefferson said. "I'm walking through the mall ... or going through campus, and they're like, 'Hey, Rondae,' and I love that type of stuff.

"This is a great city to play basketball in. It's a great university to play for and the fans are unbelievable. You don't see fans like this everywhere, especially on the East Coast. It's just a great feeling to know - no matter what - that the people in Tucson still have your back."

His improving skills on the court aside, Hollis-Jefferson is a people person; he loves to try new things.

To the avid social media users, follow Hollis-Jefferson and it will become evident that he is taking full advantage of his time at the University of Arizona. His Twitter account is loaded with funny tweets, and he often interacts with his fans. On Instagram, there are some video posts from the young star, showcasing his lighter side - including the adventures of learning how to dance to country music.

To an outsider looking in, Hollis-Jefferson might come across as a joke-first player. But basketball is important to him, and he has created a perfect balance knowing when to have fun and when to get serious. In games, he is a different person. He locks down defensively with precise a focus; offensively, he hustles harder than most.

Still, the fun-loving Hollis-Jefferson expands himself past the norms of most basketball players. He recently joined Greek Life. While not rare, it has become increasingly uncommon to see high-profiled athletes join fraternities.

"The president, his name is Gideon, he asked me if I want to be a part of it," Hollis-Jefferson said of Alpha Epsilon Pi. "I'm like, 'I don't care, I'm down.' They initiated me, I think that's pretty cool."

With all the extras going on, Hollis-Jefferson still has basketball and the draft as his long-term goal.

"My goal my whole life was to be a top-10 pick, and I believe I can do so," Hollis-Jefferson said. "I think I'll put on about 10 more pounds of muscle and practice my jump shot and become more of a leader. I think I can do that."

Hollis-Jefferson's return does many things. He increases the depth of Miller's roster. He allows himself to further improve his skills, and make a run at a national championship. Individually, he has a chance to elevate his name among the lottery picks in next year's NBA draft.

Another year also allows the standout forward to build on his already strong relationship with the community, and another year with the multifaceted Hollis-Jefferson is something Tucson will enjoy, too.

Joseph DuruakuJoseph Duruaku
GOAZCATS.com Staff Writer

Email Joseph

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