"Ever since I can remember," Hollis-Jefferson said of when he appreciated defense. "I wasn't really good on offense. My coach only put me in for defense and then I was the biggest kid, so I had to score. I would say since I was about seven I always played defense.
"That was the first thing on my mind. Let me get a steal, let me get a stop. I took pride in it and then my brother was known for defense, so I kind of followed in his footsteps."
Hollis-Jefferson knows that his defensive ability is what helped him gain the attention of college coaches, including Sean Miller.
"I would say it separated me a lot, because a lot of kids think that if they score 20, 30 they are the best player out there," he said. "I would say you need to play defense. Coaches wants guys out there that play defense, want guys that are going to win some games, and I think I have a pretty good winning record."
The best aspect of Hollis-Jefferson's game may not be what he can do physically, but rather what his mental makeup is.
"Rondae is very confident, he is very sure of himself out on the court," Miller said. "He does not back down from a challenge. The bigger the moment, the bigger the game, I think the higher the stakes, he settles in. His personality allows him to really be in a competitive mindset knowing that he is not filled with anxiety or nervousness. He doesn't kind of forget what he has learned.
"If anything, I think those moments have brought out the best in him. That's a great characteristic to have on a team, because the more confidence, the more competitiveness, the more people that we have sure of themselves seems to be spread. Rondae has given us a lot, one of which is to me I think real confidence. He has been ready for the biggest games on our schedule."
That confidence helps Hollis-Jefferson have fun playing the game he loves and it spreads to the coaches, who love to teach him.
"He's a joy to be around," Miller said. "Some guys you watch walk in the gym and they sap the living life out of you. There are other guys you see and you can't wait to coach them. You know that the next hour and a half is going to be rewarding because you have somebody that is ready and eager and ready to compete, loves the game. Rondae is certainly in that second category.
"That is just a part of my game, having fun," Hollis-Jefferson adds. "If I am not having fun, I am not going to play good. That is who I am as a person and it translates onto the basketball court."
It's not every day a player that grew up in the east comes out west and Hollis-Jefferson admits the transition was not easy at first.
"I try to talk to them (family) as much as possible," he said. "Being away from your family and the people you love the most is really hard. The people you are used to waking up to every morning, saying hi to, going to hang out with, it's very difficult. I am making the best of it, the people out here are great. I love it, Tucson is a great city, and I am glad I came."
Of course, life is much easier when you are part of the number one team in the country.
"It is great to be a part of this," Hollis-Jefferson said. "This is one of the best experiences of my life to come here and play with these guys. To be number one, there is nothing like it. I have been number three, that is about it, but to be number one is special."