It still makes sense; Hollis-Jefferson is one of the top players in the country this season. Pair him with freshman standout Stanley Johnson and Arizona has one of the most talented, physically imposing perimeter tandems in the nation.
On Sunday night, Arizona played host to the Cal State Northridge Matadors. The ‘Cats experienced their third slow start in a row, but they were able to hit their stride on both ends of the court, resulting in an 86-68 victory.
The lively Hollis-Jefferson came off the bench for the second straight game, citing a shoulder injury and a missed practice as the reason.
It is rare to find a player as talented as Hollis-Jefferson that can embrace a sixth man role, but he embodies the meaning of sacrifice.
In fact, it is his level of unselfishness that brought Arizona a much-needed spark when its offense hit a wall in the opening minutes.
Hollis-Jefferson was an instant spark plug the moment he subbed into the game, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“I thought Rondae Jefferson was the best player on our team tonight,” Sean Miller said. “When he’s in the game, so many great things are happening. He plays with an incredible energy level, he does it on defense and offense.
“Some of the passes of the night, he’s either the recipient of because he moves and runs the court, or he’s making a great pass. Rondae is also an active offensive rebounder – he spearheaded a lot of great things for us tonight.”
Hollis-Jefferson coming off the bench is a role he’s familiar and comfortable with. He prides himself on being able to slide into any role and help the team win games.
“I came off the bench because I didn’t practice,” Hollis-Jefferson explained “I have no problem with it, there’s nothing wrong with coming off the bench. You get starter minutes and you get out there to play hard, that’s all it’s about.”
Arizona has had early success playing Hollis-Jefferson as a sixth man, but Miller is still adamant about having a top six rotation that can change throughout the season.
"We’re going to talk about what combinations seem to do well with each other,” Miller said. “We are very much in search of those answers. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but we just have to keep watching what’s best for us.
"Regardless of whether Rondae is starting or not, the storyline for him is that he’s playing really well and it’s great to see.”
Although Miller has preached a top six rotation, he did state that he desires to have a high-energy player coming off the bench and he believes that role is an extremely valuable asset that every great team has.
“Rondae is a high energy guy,” Miller said. “People here at Arizona and you guys that follow the history of our program know that Jason Terry did a lot coming off the bench as a sixth man and heck, he’s done it in the NBA.
“I come from Xavier where one of the greatest players to play at Xavier, James Posey, was that type of player. When you think of Rondae, you think of James Posey when you’re talking about the energy.”
Whatever Hollis-Jefferson’s role is, Miller is confident that he will produce at a high level.
“Everybody likes to start, but sacrifice is a big deal in sports,” Miller said. “Rondae is a very unselfish kid, I don’t think not starting takes away from how well he’s playing or how good of a player he is.
“He could very well start next game, too. We need to take a look at everything and keep watching our own team to see what works best.”