Pair of wings, same course

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY JORGE CASTILLO jorge.castillo@wash­post.com

For the last few weeks, Justin An­der­son and Ron­dae Hol­lis-Jef­fer­son, like so many as­pir­ing NBA play­ers, have been trav­el­ing the coun­try, show­cas­ing their tal­ents at work­out af­ter work­out af­ter work­out. And for most of those ses­sions, six or seven ac­cord­ing to An­der­son, the two play­ers have chal­lenged one another.

The matchup raises the stakes be­cause they are di­rect com­pe­ti­tion. Both are top wing prospects and ex­pected to hear their names called some­where in the first round of Thurs­day’s draft. Go­ing up against each other grants teams the op­por­tu­nity to eval­u­ate how they stack up; a great work­out for one player could vault him over the other. The two were back on a court to­gether Thurs­day, this time at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter au­di­tion­ing for the Washington Wizards along with four other draft hope­fuls: LSU for­ward Jor­dan Mickey, Iowa for­ward Aaron White, Wy­oming for­ward and Friendly High grad­u­ate Derek Cooke Jr. and Mas­sachusetts for­ward and Wise prod­uct Maxie Esho.

“We’ve got­ten to know each other re­ally well,” said An­der­son, the for­mer Vir­ginia and Mon­trose Chris­tian stand­out. “He’s been phe­nom­e­nal; I’ve been phe­nom­e­nal as far as get­ting through the process to­gether. We’ve got to take each other to eat at times, so it’s been great. It’s been a good time.”

Both play­ers are in­trigu­ing prospects for to­day’s NBA, one that con­tin­ues to trend to­ward perime­teror­i­ented play and valu­ing ver­sa­til­ity on both ends of the floor (see: the newly crowned Golden State War­riors, who regularly used 6-foot-7 Dray­mond Green at cen­ter in the NBA Fi­nals). It is the ideal time for An­der­son and Hol­lis-Jef­fer­son to en­ter the league, and the two are cog­nizant of the league’s evo­lu­tion.

“Staff and coaches, etc., are look­ing for two-way guys, peo­ple be­ing able to play de­fense and then be­ing able to get the ball out, move it out in tran­si­tion,” said Hol­lis-Jef­fer­son, 20, who de­clared for the draft af­ter two sea­sons at Ari­zona. “And I feel like that fits my game very well, and I feel like I do that with the best, amongst the best and I’m just ex­cited to see how things go.”

Both could be op­tions for the Wizards with the 19th over­all pick, es­pe­cially if Washington be­lieves Paul Pierce will not re­turn next sea­son. But An­der­son and Hol­lis-Jef­fer­son have their dif­fer­ences.

For one, the phys­i­cal An­der­son is a much bet­ter shooter. An­der­son im­proved his three-point shoot­ing dra­mat­i­cally last sea­son — from 29.4 per­cent his sopho­more sea­son to 45.2 as a ju­nior — and im­pressed the Wizards with his shoot­ing Thurs­day. The southpaw missed eight games last sea­son be­cause of a bro­ken left pinkie. He re­turned to play with a pro­tec­tive guard on the fin­ger. He re­moved it af­ter the NCAA tour­na­ment and said the in­jury no longer is an is­sue.

An­der­son, 20, played shoot­ing guard and small for­ward in col­lege but be­lieves he can also han­dle his own at power for­ward be­cause of his sturdy 6-foot- 6, 230-pound frame and su­perb ath­leti­cism. (He reg­is­tered a 43-inch ver­ti­cal leap at the NBA com­bine.) Play­ing three sea­sons in Coach Tony Ben­nett’s vaunted de­fen­sive sys­tem, in which help de­fense is stressed like in the NBA, should only help.

“I can play the four. I’m a nat­u­ral two or three, but we were talk­ing ear­lier about the way the NBA is go­ing, play­ing small ball, with my body I think I can guard mul­ti­ple po­si­tions,” said An­der­son, whose 7- foot wing­span is an as­set de­fen­sively. “Be­ing able to guard a four cre­ates maybe a mis­match on the other end of the floor. So you have to be ver­sa­tile.”

Hol­lis-Jef­fer­son is con­sid­ered the best wing de­fender in the draft, a high-energy scrap­per who should make an in­stant im­pact de­fen­sively wher­ever he lands next sea­son. He also projects to de­fend three po­si­tions — the one, two and three — with a more slen­der 6-foot-7 frame than An­der­son but a 7-2 wing­span.

The Wizards came away im­pressed with his ath­leti­cism, but his of­fen­sive game is not as de­vel­oped. Hol­lis-Jef­fer­son wasn’t asked to shoul­der the of­fen­sive bur­den at Ari­zona and didn’t cre­ate much of­fense off the drib­ble or show much shoot­ing range. He went 6 for 29 from three-point range (20.7 per­cent) and 36.3 per­cent on all jumpers, ac­cord­ing to DraftEx­press.com. Yet he in­sisted he hasn’t felt pres­sure to show he is a bet­ter of­fen­sive weapon than ad­ver­tised.

“I feel like I’ve shown it in col­lege,” Hol­lis-Jef­fer­son said. “Be­ing able to score close to the bas­ket. Be­ing able to score in tran­si­tion and make the right play. I feel like that’s my game. And then play­ing tremen­dous de­fense. So those things. That’s what I do. So I’m good.”

An­der­son said Thurs­day was his eighth work­out; Hol­lis-Jef­fer­son wasn’t sure ex­actly how many he has at­tended but es­ti­mated it was around 10 for him. It will def­i­nitely be their last one to­gether, though. An­der­son has two ses­sions left, with the Cleve­land Cava­liers and Ok­la­homa City Thun­der. Hol­lis-Jef­fer­son has the Sacra­mento Kings, Utah Jazz and At­lanta Hawks re­main­ing.

Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­post.com/

RYAN M. KELLY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Justin An­der­son, above, has worked out for NBA teams with Ron­daeHol­lis-Jef­fer­son. They play the same po­si­tion.

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