Externally, the eye will show you that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has grown out his hair.
Internally, the ear will tell you that the longest tenured Brooklyn Net has grown as a person, a leader.
Last season was the 22-year-old’s first full NBA campaign after missing much of his 2015-16 rookie season due to injury. The 6’7” combo forward was selected in the latter part of the first round in 2015, and 107 NBA appearances later, he’s the only Net who’s been in Brooklyn for a full two seasons.
His play also earned him a spot in the 2017 NBA Africa game among the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Lowry, Andrew Drummond, Kristaps Porzingis, and others this past August.
On the trip, the third year Net was able to tap into himself as a person, calling the trip to different parts of Africa, including Ethiopia and South Africa, where the game took place, a great experience.
“To go to Africa (for) my first time – it was amazing,” said The Hyphen at Nets Media Day. “It was a great thing to be in the community and see a lot of the things we complain about growing up, first world problems or whatever, it kind of made me feel a little embarrassed. I saw kids with no shoes walking miles. I saw pregnant women have to walk 13 miles to the nearest clinic.
“All these things you look at and take into a different perspective, like wow, life is a bit more than what we think it is here in the States,” he continued. “It humbled me, man. It was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life.”
Though he is still his playful self, Hollis-Jefferson sounds more like a leader in his tone, demeanor, and approach now. It’s not just about Africa. He seems to understand that as the most senior player on the team, he has new responsibilities.
And although veterans DeMarre Carroll and Timofey Mozgov have joined the team, which already included Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker, Hollis-Jefferson is already conducting himself as a seasoned veteran... at 22.
“All the knowledge that we get is power,” said Hollis-Jefferson, speaking of advice he’s received throughout his first two seasons in the league. “So you’ve got to pass it down. That’s just the way it is. I feel like every time a young guy comes in, it’s my job or someone else’s job to teach him, be there for him, care for him.”
That may include his fellow draft class of 2015 mate, D’Angelo Russell, one of the newest, and definitely the highest profile acquisition on the Nets roster.
Early on, Hollis-Jefferson had high praise for the dynamic former Laker, who has been faulted for his lack of leadership by one Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. Hollis-Jefferson paid those comments no mind, and instead, offered thoughts about how Russell is a perfect fit for the Brooklyn based organization, on and off the court.
“He’s a very good guy to be around,” he said of Russell. “We all feel comfortable expressing ourselves and talking to each other. He just makes it better. He fits our chemistry and the way that we’re going and it’s just about complimenting each other at the end of the day.”
And not specifically tailored to Russell were Hollis-Jefferson’s comments regarding the culture (drink) of Brooklyn.
“People feel a way about giving compliments and giving love and that’s how we do here,” he said. “We embrace it. We hug each other, we tell each other we miss them, there’s nothing wrong with that. People want to feel that. A lot of people grew up missing that gap. They want to feel love. They want to feel cared about. That’s what we do here and it helps on the court.”
“It just comes down to knowing someone has your back,” continued Hollis-Jefferson, regarding Brooklyn brotherhood. “If you just meet someone for the first time you’re not going to put all your trust in their lap – you’ve got to build and develop that relationship. I feel like we’ve done that and it makes the battle in the war a lot easier knowing that your guys are right there beside you.”
And those guys are right beside The Hyphen in Annapolis, Maryland.