Rondaé Hollis-Jefferson Looks To Build On USA 3x3 Experience In 2013 Nike Hoop Summit
Rondaé Hollis-Jefferson (Chester H.S./Chester, Pa.) may be one of the USA's most experienced international players on the court in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit, which will be played on April 20 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., but the question remains whether his experience will translate. You see, Hollis-Jefferson twice has represented his country on 3x3 USA Basketball teams.
In 2011, he participated in the USA Men's U16 National Team training camp in June, and after missing the cut for the 12-member USA U16 team, was asked to join the U.S. team that would compete in the 2011 FIBA 3x3 Youth World Championship a few months later.
With no coaches, just four players to a team, a half-court setting and a 12-second shot clock, 3x3 basketball is not only fast, it levels the playing field for non-traditional basketball countries to compete with powerhouses such as the USA. Hollis-Jefferson and his teammates, who were just 16 years old competing against players who were mostly 17 and 18 years old, finished 7-5 and in eighth place.
"Out of all of the basketball I’ve played, this experience really taught me about never giving up," Hollis-Jefferson said after the 2011 tournament. "No matter what the score, any team can win and you can never let up or take a play off."
After taking the court during the 2011 USA Basketball Men's Developmental National Team training camp in October, Hollis-Jefferson arrived at the USA U17 training camp in June of 2012, hoping to make the USA's U17 World Championship Team roster. On track to make the team, Holils-Jefferson injured his shoulder and could not participate. Admittedly disheartened by the injury, he shifted his focus to rehabilitating his shoulder.
His luck once again changed when he was asked to join another USA 3x3 team, this time heading to Spain for the 2012 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship -- the same competition as in 2011 but under a new name. Despite the challenges he faced in his first 3x3 tournament, Hollis-Jefferson did not hesitate to join the squad.
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"Playing for the USA team, there’s nothing like it,” Hollis-Jefferson said before the 3x3 World Championship in September. “I get the call about anything, and I’m here."
As the only U.S. men's player with any previous international 3x3 expereience, Hollis-Jefferson led the USA to the gold medal game of the 2012 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship. In the tightly-contested final, Hollis-Jefferson nailed a buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime, and he opened the extra period by throwing down a dunk to put the U.S. on top 20-19 and in need of just one more point to clinch the gold medal (the first team to score two points in overtime earns the victory). Serbia, however, heaved up a shot from beyond the arc that banked in, giving the Serbs the two-point, 21-20 win.
"Coming in after how it went in 2011, it was a big step to finish second and play in the gold-medal game," Hollis-Jefferson said. "We did a very good job, and for them to win on a buzzer-beater back-court two, there wasn't much we could do about that. It hurt, but just to say you made it to the championship meant a lot. After getting over the loss, the silver medal was still something that I was proud to say I won and that I accomplished."
A silver medal wasn't the only hardware Hollis-Jefferson brought home with him, he also earned a bronze medal in the event's dunk contest.
"The dunks I did, I got an alley-oop from Kaela (Davis) in the audience, and I jumped over Larry (Austin)," Hollis-Jefferson said after the competition. "The other kids did some other stuff like windmills."
With the men's and women's teams traveling together and playing in the same venue, 3x3 basketball is one of the few competitions that brings USA men's and women's teams together.
"We were there for each other, sharing notes after every game," Hollis-Jefferson said of the U.S. men's and women's 3x3 U18 teams. "They scored, and we were right there next to them, cheering them on, telling them to play defense when they got tired, and they were there for us when we needed them. They were right on the court when we scored. It was very fun to have the girls team there with us to cheer us on."
There will be no girls team in Portland in April for the Nike Hoop Summit, and there will be only one game for Hollis-Jefferson to make an impact.
"It was a little crazy because at first, I didn't know what (the Nike Hoop Summit) was," Hollis-Jefferson said. "They asked me to play in the game, and I'm like 'you kidding?' It was a little shocking to me. I didn't watch the game last year, so when I found out what it was, I was like, 'wow, this is a great opportunity.' Just being selected as one of 10 players, out of all these players in the country, it's a big accomplishment. Not a lot of players get a chance to play in this game against international players."
And while Hollis-Jefferson's international resume includes just 3x3 on teams, his domestic accomplishments are evidence of his five-on-five prowess. Playing at Chester High School in Pennslyvania, Hollis-Jefferson has helped his squad rank among the nation's best throughout the season, and the Clippers are looking to capture a third-straight Pennsylvania Class 4A state title.
"We are in the playoffs now, so I'm hoping that we win the district championship, and then the state championship, and then I hope I get All-Delco Player of the Year and state player of the year," Hollis-Jefferson said when asked about his goals for his senior season. "And to be in the 1,000-point scoring club. That's pretty much it. I have about 120 points to go, or something like that."
There isn't much left of Hollis-Jefferson's high-school career, but fans will seen him soon enough on the court next fall for the University of Arizona Wildcats.
"It seemed like a home-away-from-home when I went out there," Hollis-Jefferson said of Arizona." The players, they made me feel good, the coaching staff, the whole environment; everything felt like I wasn't too far away from home. And then it being a program that is so good, a top-10 team, that made it even better for me."
It is likely that Hollis-Jefferson will be perfectly comfortable in Portland, too, despite the new experience.
"It's going to be a lot different, because playing 3x3 is good but it's not like playing five-on-five. I think it will be really special to represent the USA."
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