Because of events over the past six months, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has come to expect the unexpected in the Philippines.
His latest welcome surprise? Returning to the country to reinforce another basketball team. Not the TNT Tropang Giga in the PBA this time, but the Jordan national squad in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.
“It means a lot,” Hollis-Jefferson told a pair of reporters, including The Inquirer, as the Jordanians were about to start their practice at Ninoy Aquino Stadium on Friday. “It’s an honor to represent a country and on a stage like this and being able [to get a chance] to do my all [and] show the world what I can do.”
It was in February when Hollis-Jefferson was chilling on the famous shores of Boracay when he got a call about the possibility of donning the Tropang Giga jersey for the season-ending PBA Governors’ Cup and he immediately jumped at the chance.
And in giving his nod, the former Brooklyn Nets starter in the NBA eventually found his one missing career highlight—winning a championship.
Hollis-Jefferson and TNT outlasted crowd-favorite Barangay Ginebra, despite being booed by fans for his perceived arrogance. He was a picture of poise and calm throughout the series and the Best Import winner gleamed with pride upon lifting the Governors’ Cup title.
Another call, a few months later, led to another chance of marking an X sign on his bucket list.
“My agent reached out and told me that they were looking for someone to be their naturalized player,” Hollis-Jefferson said.
That “they” was Jordan, which despite having a talented naturalized player in Dar Tucker still wanted someone with a pedigree as Hollis-Jefferson’s. And in July, a picture of Hollis-Jefferson in a Jordan practice jersey confirmed his newfound status.
So what made Hollis-Jefferson accept the offer?
“I was like ‘Wow, this is a cool opportunity,’” he said. “They talked to me about the Olympics, they talked to me about the World Cup. And when they told me that it was in the Philippines, I was like ‘Oh yeah, let’s do it.’”
To get to the Olympics, Jordan will need to become the best-ranked Asian team, the main goal Hollis-Jefferson is aiming for.
But Jordan’s initial quest will have to go through a tough Group C led by the United States and a Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Greece, plus a New Zealand team that beat the former for bronze in the 2022 Asia Cup.
And like what he experienced with TNT, Hollis-Jefferson feels the same way with Jordan.
“They’re a great group of guys, they want to win, they understand what’s in front of them, what’s at stake,” he said. “So it’s been nothing but love and appreciation so I’m looking forward to it.”
That doesn’t mean he no longer forgets about the bond he had with TNT from that April night when a PBA championship was claimed. He keeps in touch with Tropang Giga coach/team manager Jojo Lastimosa and he’s expected to be back in October for the season-opening Commissioner’s Cup.
“I’ll see them, I’ll see them, for sure,” he said. INQ
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