Arizona Wildcats' Hollis-Jefferson headed to the NBA

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson considered leaving Arizona after his freshman season before deciding to stick around for at least one more year.

It worked out pretty well and now the Wildcats' bundle-of-energy forward is taking the big step to the NBA.

Hollis-Jefferson announced on Tuesday that he will forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the NBA draft, where he's expected to be a first-round draft pick.

''It's definitely a tough decision to make,'' Hollis-Jefferson said. ''You love the program and you did so much here, it's amazing. Leaving this program is tough. But I feel this is the best decision for me and my family, so I'm ready to take that next step.''

A former McDonald's All-American from Chester, Pennsylvania, Hollis-Jefferson was part of a stellar recruiting class that included forward Aaron Gordon.

Gordon opted to leave after one season and is now playing for the Orlando Magic.

Hollis-Jefferson opted for a return to the desert, both to work on his game and hopefully lead the Wildcats on another deep NCAA Tournament run.

The athletic 6-foot-7 forward became the catalyst for Arizona's defense, guarding every position on the floor - sometimes in the same game.

His boundless energy was a spark for the Wildcats in nearly every game he played, many times as the team's sixth man.

Soaring in for acrobatic dunks and emphatic blocks, diving for loose balls and using his springy legs to keep offensive rebounds alive, Hollis-Jefferson was part of 67 wins in two seasons at Arizona.

He averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds this season, helping lead the Wildcats to the Elite Eight for the second straight season.

''I don't know if I have ever enjoyed coaching a player more than I have enjoyed coaching Rondae,'' Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ''I said this during the NCAA Tournament: 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. You're on the hunt for the next Rondae Hollis-Jefferson because you know that type of person, that type of competitor, that type of player translates into a lot of great moments.''

Though not much of a perimeter threat, Hollis-Jefferson could do well in the NBA as a defensive stopper and rebounder.

His long arms and quickness - both laterally and jumping - made him one of college basketball's toughest defenders, a player who guarded Gonzaga point guard Kevin Pangos and 6-foot-10 forward Kyle Wiltjer in the same game.

''I would say 100 percent defense, just going out there and being able to compete and defend any team's best player,'' Hollis-Jefferson said of his role in the NBA. ''I would say I'm confident in that. And the other things, offensively, I will get better at that as the years come, and I'm willing to work at it.''

Hollis-Jefferson's announcement could be one of many in the next couple of weeks at Arizona.

Freshman Stanley Johnson is expected to declare for the NBA after one season in the desert and junior forward Brandon Ashley might be headed there, too. Junior center Kaleb Tarczewski also may leave early.

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