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Arizona lands hard-working ESPN 100 SF

9/13/2012

ESPN 100 small forward Rondae Jefferson (Chester, Pa./Chester), the nation's No. 14 recruit, has a couple of things in common with his future coach at Arizona, Sean Miller.

They are both from Pennsylvania, and when Miller played at Pittsburgh he influenced the outcome of a game with his toughness, defense and passing skills, just like Jefferson, who recently made my list of 10 hardest workers of the summer.

"I know Coach Miller is competitive on the court, but he is that way off the court also," Jefferson said. "He likes to play video games. He was playing against Nick Johnson and he wouldn't let him win. I noticed that."

With the departure of Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom at the small forward slots after this season and the influx of talent on the returning roster for Arizona, the timing for Jefferson to join the Wildcats in 2013 could not be better. Arizona now has two ESPN 100 players locked up. Combine Jefferson and shooting guard Elliott Pitts (Dublin, Calif./De La Salle) and the Wildcats will have size to score and defend on the perimeter.

Jefferson's commitment moves Arizona to No. 8 in the 2013 class rankings.

"On my visit it felt like a home away from home," Jefferson said. "From the players to the coaches and the people on campus."

Arizona just landed a great player who is not a great shooter, but he does so much more. So many players put an emphasis on their scoring and nothing more, and they become one-dimensional and easy to guard. Jefferson can certainly score, but he impacts the game through a relentless approach to performance. Physically he is ready now and has a wingspan of 7-foot-2 while standing 6-7.

Jefferson is a rare two-way player who demands more of himself than anyone else could. He played AAU basketball with Team Final and has been compared to Michael Gilchrist because of his attacking style on offense, determined rebounding at both ends and defensive stopper mentality.

He's also a winner. His high school team finished last season 32-0 and won the Class AAAA state title for the second straight year. He's an energy player with whom others enjoy playing because of his flair for the game and his team-first attitude.

Jefferson handles the ball well for his size, often breaking pressure in the backcourt, handling it on the break if needed or driving to the bucket to score. He's an instinctive passer who plays with his head and eyes up, not only seeing the pass but completing it as well. He's a relentless rebounder who gathers anything in his reach, and if there's a loose ball, he's on the floor to get it.

On the defensive end of the floor he is good at not allowing his man to catch the ball, using his long arms and active feet to his advantage. He will provide a suffocating defensive mentality by contesting and blocking shots, and he'll take the life out of opponents by taking a charge when needed.

His overall performance is extremely productive at both ends of the court, with potential still to be reached. It’s no secret that his outside jumper needs work, but when you watch his release and mechanics, it’s not broken. He just needs to tighten up his shot with constant practice and he can be a capable outside threat in the future.

Miller will utilize Jefferson’s versatility to score in the post when there is a mismatch, assigning him to get some second-chance points off the glass and create fouls with the drive, along with any transition baskets.

When Jefferson steps on Arizona's campus next season he will have the best of both worlds. He will be on a roster that has a chance to win the Pac-12 and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, but he'll also bring the Wildcats the talent, athletic ability and work ethic needed to help make that dream a reality.