By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In the end, it was all about the right fit and feeling comfortable. It’s what went into the decision Rondae Jefferson made in calling Arizona coach Sean Miller and giving him a verbal commitment Thursday night to attend the school next season on a basketball scholarship. Jefferson chose Arizona over Texas, Florida and Temple, where his older brother, Rahlir, plays.
Rondae was the hub of a Clippers’ team that finished 32-0 last year as the No. 3-rated team in the country by MaxPreps, carrying into this season a 58-game winning streak, the nation’s second-longest behind St. Anthony’s 60-game run.
Jefferson, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound point guard, averaged 13 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals a game last year for Chester. Defense and the ability to handle the ball at 6-8 are his strengths.
“I’m happy, Arizona seemed like the best situation for me,” said Jefferson, who visited Arizona last week with his mother. “I felt like that was the school for me. They run a lot of stuff like we do at Chester. That had a lot to do with it. It was important I committed early, too. I didn’t like getting all of these phone calls. The other reason is I’m happy I decided early so I could concentrate on my senior year. Florida would have been my other choice.”
It came down to feeling more comfortable with how the Wildcats play and “that Arizona would be mine team,” Jefferson said. “They told me I would have a chance to start right away.”
Rondae is considered the best player in Pennsylvania and one of the top point guards in the country. He’s projected to play either point guard or be a hybrid point forward for the Wildcats.
“It was a good fit, and Rondae thought Coach Miller’s system was very similar to what we run here, plus Arizona has had success with guys going to the NBA,” Chester coach Larry Yarbray said. “I think Rondae felt good about that and playing in the Big 12. I know a lot of people thought Rondae may stay home [and go to Temple]. But I also think Rondae was different, and wanted to get away. He’s a great kid who could do well in any type of environment. The process went rather quickly.
“Personally, I thought the decision was going to come a little later. But Rondae said he felt good about the coaches at Arizona, he liked the atmosphere, he really loved it out there. I also think it boiled down to the phone ringing all of the time.”
That may have had something to do with the process moving rapidly. Jefferson is so team-conscious that he didn’t want his college choice to be a distraction for what promises to be another great season for Chester, a team that could start the season among the top five in the country, based on what the Clippers return.
“Rondae has good talent and he wants to be recognized for it,” Yarbray said. “He can do anything on the court. He’ll be everything for us this year. He’s so versatile he can play anything from the one to the five. He may play center for us. There may be games where he’s doing everything from playing center to running the point. He’s a match-up problem for anyone. But if you ask me at the major level, I’d say he’s a three man or a point forward. He’s great with the ball in his hands.
“Rondae is definitely a great defender, and he knows he has to work on his shot. He has everything else. He can handle it and he’s working on his shot every day. That’s getting better, too.”