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FIBA World Cup: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scores 20 points in loss to US

fiba-world-cup-arizona-wildcats-rondae-hollis-jefferson-jordan-united-states Photo by Ariana Saigh/Getty Images

Former Arizona Wildcats standout Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has emerged as the breakout player at the FIBA World Cup, where on Wednesday he scored 20 points for Jordan in a losing effort against the United States.

Hollis-Jefferson shot 6 of 14 from the field along with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals despite twisting his ankle in the second quarter of an eventual 110-62 defeat to the Americans.

Through three games, Hollis-Jefferson is second in the World Cup in scoring with 27.7 points per game. The only player above him is a guy named Luka Doncic of Slovenia.

Hollis-Jefferson had a tournament-high 39 points in Jordan’s 95-87 loss to New Zealand on Monday. His shot making has drawn comparisons to the late Kobe Bryant, who like Hollis-Jefferson grew up in Philadelphia. Hollis-Jefferson notably is wearing Bryant’s former number, 24.

After the loss to the U.S., Hollis-Jefferson remarked on his basketball journey from former first round pick to out of the NBA and competing in Turkey and Puerto Rico.

“I would say once I was out the league, I had to reevaluate myself,” he told reporters. “I came out of high school, I was top 25. I was in the green room for the lottery. I feel like I was on a pedestal. I felt like I could do anything I wanted.

“Not being in the NBA, not having a roster spot kind of woke me up to humble myself. And I doubted myself. I thought I wasn’t good enough. I thought I wasn’t capable as a basketball player anymore.”

Hollis-Jefferson credited his first born son for keeping his hope alive.

“I went through a lot of ups and downs but he kept my head up, kept me focused, along with a group of other people,” he said.

Hollis-Jefferson said his career took a step forward in Puerto Rico by playing for a coach that let him play his style of basketball.

“When you let a player who is really talented be comfortable, he’ll be able to do a lot of things with that basketball,” Hollis-Jefferson said.

While Jordan is 0-3 in the tournament, Hollis-Jefferson’s time on the world stage isn’t finished yet. The team will play in the classification round with its next game Thursday against Egypt at 5:30 a.m. MST.

How other former Wildcats are faring at FIBA

Two former Arizona players are still competing for a chance to win the FIBA World Cup, while U.S. coach Steve Kerr would like to bring a gold medal back to America.

Dusan Ristic is a forward for Serbia, which went 3-0 in group play. Ristic is averaging 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds.

Serbia begins the second round by facing Italy Friday at 1 a.m. Arizona assistant Riccardo Fois is an assistant coach for the Italian team.

Josh Green represents Australia, which went 2-1 in group play. Green is averaging 9 points and 2.3 rebounds.

Australia takes on Slovenia Friday at 5:10 a.m.

Finland, led by Lauri Markkanen, went 0-3 in group play. Markkanen is averaging 19.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists. Finland faces Cape Verde in the classification round Thursday at 12:30 a.m.