By all accounts, Andre Hollins is a good young player.
But would coach Tubby Smith really start a freshman as the floor general?
He hasn’t often in his 38-year career, but there is one that jumps out.
In 2004, current Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who was part of the top-rated recruiting class, started as a freshman for Smith’s squad in Kentucky. The Wildcats didn’t advance to the Final Four in either of Rondo’s freshman or sophomore seasons, but the guard led his team to big victories and was named to the SEC all-freshman team.
In most ways, the two are very different players:
- Rondo was a defensive specialist and slasher but struggled mightily with his jump shot and from the free-throw line. He was a pass-first point guard whose big hands helped him control the ball well inside, but got in the way when he tried to shoot.
- Hollins shot 40 percent from behind the arc and 88 from the stripe in high school, and looked to have excellent shooting mechanics during the 3-point competition at “All-Star Friday Night.” Conversely, Hollins needs to improve his defense, ball handling and ability to create shots.
But the greatest similarity is perhaps the most important for the leader on the floor.
“I saw all the leadership skills, all the qualities,” Smith said of Hollins. “He’s shown it so far in practice and in individual workouts and in the classroom, in the weight room, everything we’ve asked him to do. Those are good indicators that he’s capable of doing what we expect him to do, is be a leader and a point guard in the Big Ten.”
One of Rondo’s greatest strengths in college was the intelligence and poise he displayed with the ball in his hands. Smith has gushed about the intelligence of Hollins and the guard’s poise was obvious at least in a social form at Media Day, when in interview after interview he did not stop smiling or answering with thoughtful enthusiasm. The court vision of each player has perhaps been their greatest assist in getting to where they are now.
“If he’s good enough and he wins the job, then he’ll start,” Smith said. “We’ve started freshmen in the past. We don’t mind starting them now.”
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