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The question was never whether Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was good enough to be a starter for the Arizona Wildcats.

But the question is — still, perhaps — whether the Wildcats really want him coming off the bench or not.

After yet another slow first-half start Monday, UA coach Sean Miller started Hollis-Jefferson over Gabe York for the second half of No. 3 Arizona’s 72-53 win over Missouri in the Maui Invitational.

Miller said it was a “reward” for Hollis-Jefferson, but not a permanent move. The result: Hollis-Jefferson scored five points in 79 seconds and the Wildcats expanded a seven-point halftime lead to 12.

They outscored Missouri 8-4 over the first four minutes of the second half, a time period Miller emphasizes.

For Hollis-Jefferson, it was the same kind of spark he likes to produce, only coming before he usually gets in for the half.

“Coming into the game with the energy I always have is a great feeling for our team,” he said. “We need that spark sometimes off the bench or sometimes we may need it to start with, and coach knows that.”

As Miller has indicated, Hollis-Jefferson said he volunteered not to start if that helped the Wildcats.

“Sometimes when you have so many pieces to the puzzle, you might need a glue guy or an energy guy to come off the bench,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “And I knew I was that guy. So sometimes sacrifice is for the better. It’s always better for your team in the long run.”

That’s why Miller said he won’t change his lineup, no matter how good Hollis-Jefferson is playing. He said he would probably start his usual lineup today against Kansas State.

“It’s not as if we’re not starting Rondae because he’s not one of our best five players,” Miller said. “I think what we’ve decided (is because of) a chemistry perspective and maybe getting more balance on offense, that not starting him gives us that energy that everyone loves to have off the bench, and maybe complements the starting group a little bit better.

“But every once in a while, you could certainly see that we’d want to start him in the second half.”
http://tucson.com/sports/basketball/college/wildcats/ua-basketball-notes-rondae-key-in-second-half-surge/article_1913d9af-15d2-5863-b968-8a15b4ee118e.html
 

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The way Rondae Hollis-Jefferson played Wednesday, the decision to use him off the bench nearly decided itself.

Entering less than four minutes into the Wildcats’ 71-54 win over UC Irvine, Hollis-Jefferson wound up the game’s leading scorer (19 points) with six rebounds, a block and the dunk of the game (or month, or season) – a one-handed slam over 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye.

In other words, it worked out pretty well. Hollis-Jefferson kept the other starters happy in the lineup while his production hardly suffered as a sixth man.

But Sean Miller says the decision to play Hollis-Jefferson off the bench again – a role that may become permanent -- was actually made after the Wildcats’ win over Cal State Northridge.

In that game, Miller played Hollis-Jefferson in an effort to keep the rhythm going after he didn’t start Hollis-Jefferson for UA’s season opener on Nov. 14, he said, because of a shoulder injury that forced Hollis-Jefferson to miss practice the day before.

When the two sat down to talk about the role, Miller said he didn’t have to “sell it,” and found Hollis-Jefferson willing to be a sixth man again.

“There are a lot of these guys who will talk the talk and say ‘sacrifice,’ and beat their chest when things are going well,” Miller said. But “there aren’t a lot of kids who would come off the bench if you’re him."

Miller said one reason Hollis-Jefferson is playing well so far this season is because he isn’t “caught up in himself” and has a team mindset.

“In basketball, you’ve got to play at both ends,” Miller said. “There’s a lot going on. You can’t be an effective player when you’re in your own world and Rondae, he embodies a lots of the qualities you want to have in a program on and off the court.

“He’s unselfish and the bigger the game, the more he rises up. For him to come off the bench and say that, that means a lot to our team.”

All this is not to say Hollis-Jefferson lacks confidence. Not only did he tell his teammates he was going to dunk on the 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, but he also told Ndiaye himself.

Then he did it.

“He told us at some point in the game he was going to dunk on him,” Gabe York said. “I always get hyped for situations like that. That was definitely a big-time play.”

If you haven’t seen the dunk already, or even if you have, it’s definitely worth checking out here.
http://tucson.com/sports/blogs/pascoe/ua-uci-postgame-on-rhj-s-role-the-dunk-and/article_c1bf9c8e-7084-11e4-a283-0b1f50582e85.html

 

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