Arizona basketball: Future Wildcats get World of experience

2013-04-21T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:32:51Z Arizona basketball: Future Wildcats get World of experienceBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PORTLAND - While playing high school all-star games earlier this month against guys he has known for years, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson didn't run into too many surprises.

This was different.

Hollis-Jefferson and fellow UA signee Aaron Gordon were part of a USA Junior Select team that was run over by a collection of 19-and-under international stars in the World team's 112-98 victory Saturday in the Nike Hoop Summit game at the Rose Garden.

While the USA players have seen plenty of Canada's Andrew Wiggins, the Huntington (W.Va.) Prep wing who had 17 points and nine rebounds for the World, they hadn't seen that much of French forward Livio Jean-Charles - who came up with 27 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

There were also 18 points and six assists from Dennis Schröder, a guard from Germany.

"You don't know what to expect," Hollis-Jefferson said. "We tried to go out and play our hardest. They were tough."

USA had several runs that cut back deficits of up to 18 points but was never able to catch its international opponents, even as Arizona's two recruits helped on both ends of the court.

Hollis-Jefferson had 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, with six rebounds and two blocks, while Gordon had nine points and a rebound. USA Junior Select was led by Duke-bound Jabari Parker, who had 22 points, seven rebounds and three steals while scoring three straight baskets during a late but futile USA run.

Not only did the USA allow the World to shoot 48.7 percent from the field but it also was out-rebounded 50-35.

"They were one of the most talented, if not the most talented, World teams that we've had at the Hoop Summit," USA coach Mike Jones said. "They played good pretty much from start to finish."

Hollis-Jefferson and his teammates had plenty of excuses. Most of them had played in both the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic game earlier this month, before having to schlep to Oregon for the more serious Nike Hoop Summit game.

Didn't matter to Hollis-Jefferson.

"You can say you're tired, but you've got to go out and play hard," Hollis-Jefferson said.

They also had just two days to practice, with flight delays further cutting back their preparation, while the World team spent five full days in Portland to prepare for the game.

"We always celebrate so much about the game but the week of practice was probably more valuable," said World coach Roy Rana of Canada. "Everyone on this team had an impact at some point and time during the week. They were phenomenal. It was a great team from top to bottom."

Making it worse for the USA, Gordon said, was that players tried too hard to keep to a structured approach with their limited time to prepare. Switching back from a man-to-man to a zone defense also made it difficult to find a rhythm, he said.

"We needed to play more fluidly," Gordon said. "We were second-guessing each other on the court. I think all of us kind of worried about what some of the coaches were saying a little bit too much. … We just needed to keep it really simple."

Both Hollis-Jefferson and Gordon still had their moments, however. Gordon started the game off by winning the jump ball, then slamming down a dunk four seconds later. Late in the game, he passed up a potentially crowded drive to the basket by dishing to guard Kasey Hill for a wide-open three-pointer.

Though he didn't get to guard Wiggins as much as he'd hoped, Hollis-Jefferson did a lot of his work defensively and around the basket on offense, with a number of rebound dunks and putbacks.

"I played hard on defense and played solid offense," Hollis-Jefferson said. "I tried to make some things happen."

In the end, though, they and their USA teammates didn't have enough to keep the World team from winning back-to-back Hoop Summit games for the first time since the game began in 1995.

But there was still enough to feel good about.

It was an exhibition, after all. And a learning experience.

"It felt good," Gordon said. "I felt like I got better."

On StarNet: Follow the Cats through the offseason at: azstarnet.com/pascoe

Contact Bruce Pascoe at bpascoe@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @BrucePascoe

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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