Listen to Hollis Jefferson tell it and it’s clear that his story is made possible because of where he’s from, “Growing up in PA, outside of Philly, Chester definitely shaped me … to have this mindset that you have to be strong, that you can’t let people run all over you, you have to be comfortable with who you are because people will change you in a heartbeat, to go this way or that way, they’ll navigate your life moreso than allowing you to be the leader of your own destiny. I felt like I did a good job with that along with the help of my family and peers, just knowing who I was from an early age. It’s hard for young people to do, trying to fit in or to find the right crowd.” Choosing a basketball life is difficult, complicated, and by the numbers, unforgiving. To believe in a hoop dream is to be different and unafraid. Of 546,428 high school basketball players recognized by the NCAA, 18,684 are recruited to compete at the college level—3.5%. Of those college athletes, 4,152 are NBA Draft eligible, with 44 of 60 draft picks coming from the college ranks. 1.1% earns the right to play professional ball.
It became clear early on that Rondae had been blessed with a rare combination of size and speed, and rarer still in today’s NBA, with a passion for defense. A decorated high school career would see him notch 1000-plus points, a school-record 780 rebounds, and two state titles en-route to becoming the first-ever player in his county to be named Player of the Year multiple times, consecutively. “You know, I actually didn’t want that. I didn’t want to fit in. I wanted people to come to me. And people did, through grade school and even through college, people came to me. Through that, I was able to grow.”