In case you missed it, Chester’s Rondae Jefferson made county history by becoming the first player to ever claim two straight Daily Times Player of the Year honors. Jefferson also figures to be a prominent part of the mix for the Associated Press State Player of the Year, a title he also claimed last year. He’ll head off to the University of Arizona this summer and there’s little doubt that he’s expected to be a big part of the Wildcats’ future.
Here are some more of Jefferson’s thoughts from his Player of the Year interview. He talks about Chester’s ability to be a staple in the national polls despite being a public school, his legacy as a Clipper and how he feeds off of criticism, among other thing.
Despite not getting a third straight state title, is he satisfied with his Chester career?
“My coach talked about it. He said even though I lost, I had one heck of a career at Chester High. I played pretty much four years – I had the injury my freshman year – I did a lot of things some people didn’t do. I got him two state championships, I got Player of the Year, I just accomplished a lot of things here. All in all, yeah (I’m satisfied). It would have been more satisfying if I had gotten this last championship.”
What’s it like watching Clippers games as a kid and wanting to grow up playing for Chester?
“When I was growing up, watching my brother play and recent players, it just made me want to play. It’s just, like, wow. You see the love they’re getting and ‘ah, Rahlir I love you!’ ‘Karon (Burton) I love you!’ It’s crazy. Just wanting to be a part of it and just seeing how it is, I just loved it.”
What are your thoughts on how much history the senior class made?
“We made a lot of history because not too many people can say they did that. For me to be a part of that team, it’s a dream come true and to be setting that history with the teammates I had, I love those guys, and there’s nothing like that. So I would say that makes everything more exciting besides the loss. It was fun.”
Most of the country’s top basketball teams are almost basketball factories who can go out and recruit kids from around the country. What’s it like for a smalltown team to do it with homegrown players?
“It’s just knowing us. Everybody that played for us is from here. From Chester, born and raised, and we take pride in basketball. We take a lot of pride in it in just trying to win. We hate to lose, as you can see and tell. We hate to lose and we’re just a family. Whether we had played basketball or not, we’d still be friends. We would have still hung out and everybody loves that about us because they see us all the time with each other. Whether we’re going to hang out or we’re going to the gym, they always see us together, so they know we’re a family.”
When did you first realize you had the potential to be this good?
“To tell you the truth, ninth grade summer going into 10th grade year. Growing up, I was just a defensive player. I scored when I could and I just played basketball because I loved to do it. My ninth grade, I started playing with Team Final and that’s when my game started to open up. I showed more of my skills on offense, then my defense just got better and better, so that’s when I kind of got it and I saw that I had a chance.”
What’s it like when you hear criticism, like those who say you can’t shoot or whatever else they might say?
“It’s just motivation. There’s a lot of people out there that can’t shoot, but it’s the work that you put in. It’s not what people say. They’re just making me better and making me stronger as a person. I love that. It’s just making me more confident just to make it, just to get better and to just do the things that I want to do.”
“A lot of people have their own opinions. You can’t say too much about it. It’s their opinion, that’s how they feel, so I let it go sometimes. It depends on who it is, but as you know, it’s a lot of people that might not know you. It motivates me a lot. As soon as I hear something like that or see something like that, I call my brother and I tell him, ‘I’ve got to get in the gym.'”
Take a look at his Twitter account (@RondaeJ23) and you’ll see that Jefferson isn’t your typical kid. He recognizes that his image is something he has to uphold and in a day and age where social media has led to the downfall of more than one athlete, Jefferson knows the importance of not looking like a buffoon on social media.
“That’s the biggest thing. Social networks because a lot of people are following you that you’ll never know. As far as that, I keep my tweets to a minimum and when I do say something, it’s more on the professional side. I’ll be talking to a friend because this is also a business world and business people are looking at you, so you’ve got to conduct yourself like a businessman.”
There’s a reason why Jefferson is going to play major Division I basketball and it’s not just his skill on the court. He’s as genuine and polite a kid as I’ve ever dealt with and there’s little doubt that he’s going to make Chester proud.
– MATT CHANDIK