It's June 25 and I'm at the 2015 NBA Draft. As the soon-to-be NBA ballers approach the stage for a group photo, I noticed one player who stood out the most: a fellow dressed in red plaid pants named Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
In the moment I chuckled a bit only to later find out that he had become a Net.
The trade, Hollis-Jefferson and Steve Blake for Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton, signified bigger things than talent. Something that can't be taught. Something called character.
Hollis-Jefferson's first words to Nets fans were, "Look out Brooklyn, here I come. You can't hide, you can't run. I'm coming, baby!" He became a breath of fresh air during a really tough season.
But now, things are changing. The Nets are committed to patience and development with Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson running the ship, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looks to be the ideal guy to build a culture with.
At Monday's presser for Atkinson, he discussed his vision for the core, and you immediately thought of Rondae with his mentioning of grit, defense and character.
"Everybody's competitive in the NBA, but to be able to do it 82 games, night after night, minute after minute, play by play, that's a heck of a task, a heck of a challenge, even for NBA players," Kenny Atkinson said at the HSS Center in Brooklyn. "So that's gonna be first and foremost. A group when the Brooklyn fans if they watch a game, they're looking and saying 'Man, that's a competitive group. That group competes.'
"So that's first. The second value is a team that shares the ball and plays together, both offensively and defensively. Playing as a team, we're gonna have to do this as a group. And I would say thirdly, a group that has high character, that's gonna be great with the fans. You're gonna have an experience with that, and Sean Kilpatrick is like 'Man, these are good guys. High character guys. They play with great spirit and great integrity.'"
Although he missed 50 games due to an ankle injury, Hollis-Jefferson received two All-Rookie Second Team votes. People around the league and inside the organization have nothing but high praise to the 21-year-old from Chester, Pennsylvania.
"Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, man there's your draft pick," Atkinson later said. "He's an athletic guy and can defend the position. Why can't he be a darn-good starting three-man in this league?"
Defense: In 29 games, opponents scored under 103 points per 100 possessions. With Hollis-Jefferson off the court, that number rises to 111.
Character: Over the course of the postseason, we've seen Rondae in the gym at the HSS Training Center seemingly the glue of the young core that also includes Kilpatrick, Chris McCullough, and Markel Brown. It's a core is having fun together. Significance? Cohesiveness.
Then just a few days back on May 19, Hollis-Jefferson hosted a C.H.A.P. spelling bee at the HSS Training Center in collaboration with Reading Plus, a program that encourages Brooklyn students in grades 3-12 to read.
"It's always been a part of me to give back to the community, help the kids in whatever way I can," Hollis-Jefferson told the Nets. "It's upon us, the older people that know, to instill these tools into young people today," he said.
Great to be here at #HSSTrainingCenter for @RondaeHJ24's C.H.A.P Spelling Bee with local Brooklyn students. #Nets pic.twitter.com/Y3cEBFbqpX— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) May 19, 2016
One day prior, RHJ was spotted in Brooklyn buying ice cream for kids in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Nets' Rondae Hollis-Jefferson buying neighborhood kids ice cream after doing a photo shoot at Rucker Park. pic.twitter.com/YbooFxa3SQ— Bucky Turco (@buckyturco) May 18, 2016
Hollis-Jefferson's C.H.A.P. slogan, often seen on his social media accounts, stands for Calm, Humble and Patient -- an acronym and "way of life" for Rondae as Cory Wright describes it.
Perhaps behind Rondae's lead and rise in Brooklyn, his CHAP acronym might be the perfect representation for the Nets' stride towards success. And with Sean Marks, Kenny Atkinson and the young Hollis-Jefferson seemingly on the same page, things might not be as bad as they seem.