After more than a week of speculation, Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has confirmed he will forgo his final two years of eligibility to enter the 2015 NBA Draft. Hollis-Jefferson announced his decision, which comes as little surprise, Tuesday afternoon at a press conference with Wildcats coach Sean Miller.
“To start off, I just want to say thank you to the city of Tucson and our great fans for everything over the last two years,” Hollis-Jefferson said in a statement. “It’s not every day that a kid from where I grew up gets blessed with an opportunity like this.
“I’ve decided to move on to the next chapter of my life and enter my name in the 2015 NBA Draft. After talking with my family and Coach (Sean) Miller to weigh the pros and cons, I fully believe this is the right choice. I’m excited for the challenges that lie ahead, and with the knowledge that God rewards hard work, I plan to attack them.”
Hollis-Jefferson said he had come to the decision to leave for the NBA a week or two ago after talking to Miller as well as his family.
“It’s definitely a tough decision to make, being as though you’re loved in the program, you did so much here, you established so much here, it’s amazing,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “Leaving this program is tough, but I feel as though it’s the best decision for me and my family. So, I’m ready to take that next step.”
After a strong freshman campaign as Arizona’s sixth man, there was some thought that Hollis-Jefferson would make the jump to the pros.
Instead, he decided to return for a second season and ended up as a first-team All-Pac 12 player and one of the conference’s best defenders.
This past season, the sophomore averaged 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while leading the team in blocked shots with 32.
His leadership, energy, and strong defensive abilities helped the Wildcats to a 34-4 record as they won the Pac-12 Championship and reached the Elite 8 for the second consecutive year before falling to Wisconsin.
“I would just say that you always hope when it comes to an end, that it ends like this,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed coaching a player more than I’ve enjoyed coaching Rondae.”
The 6-foot-7, 220-pounder is a projected first-round draft pick. DraftExpress.com has him being selected as the No. 23 overall pick, while nbadraft.net has him going No. 29.
Hollis-Jefferson is one of several members of the Wildcats’ starting lineup who will not return next season. Senior point guard T.J. McConnell is set to graduate. Junior forward Brandon Ashley announced his decision to enter the draft on Monday, while junior center Kaleb Tarczewski and freshman forward Stanley Johnson are currently deciding their futures.
If Johnson and Tarczewski decide to move on, Miller will be tasked with replacing his entire starting lineup.
“If that happens then that’s something that we knew was a possibility a long time ago,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen, we want these guys to come back because that’s in their best interests as well.”
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA TODAY Sports