Andre Hollins rolled the thought around in his mind, as if he was pondering the subject for the first time.
Without knowing the full math, the Gophers tri-captain paused to consider the suggestion that he could finish his basketball career as the all-time scoring leader at Minnesota.
“Looking in the future, that would be great,” he said. “But I’m going to take it day by day and get better each day and then around the end of my senior year, we’ll see where I’m at.”
Certainly, no milestone so elite is a guarantee for any player. But Hollins, a dynamic junior guard who still has room to improve, certainly has a chance to best Mychal Thompson’s record point total.
Hollins, who is averaging 15.9 points a game, has scored 1,059 career points — 933 short of Thompson’s record of 1,992, set from 1974-78 — with most of the Big Ten season this year and his entire senior season yet to play. (Voshon Lenard, who played from 1991-95, had 2,103 career points, but is officially credited with only 1,097 because of NCAA sanctions against the Gophers.)
In order to tie Thompson, Hollins would need to average 17.6 points per game from here out, assuming the Gophers play an average of 34 games each of the next two seasons, including postseason.
“So we need to get him like 18 [points per game] to beat it,” coach Richard Pitino said jokingly of the player who almost surely will compete at Minnesota for four years. “I think he can do it. … He’s a really competitive kid, he’s probably a much tougher kid than most people realize. One thousand points early in his junior year just says a lot about a great career.”
Obviously, 18 is significantly more than what Hollins is averaging now, but he has shown plenty of capability for increasing his production. The guard, who scored 17 against Purdue on Sunday, has had to substantially change his game from a year ago but still has maintained strong numbers and seems to be threatening to take the next step.
Hollins has stayed mostly healthy for his college career so far — Thompson did not — and has more opportunities now as well, with teams scheduling more games and conferences adding league tournaments at the end of the year.
After a sophomore season in which Hollins began to flex his potential — averaging 14.6 points a game and exploding for huge performances in clutch games, such as his 41-point showing against Memphis in the Bahamas — opponents are well aware of his scoring ability.
Hollins has had to develop his game past the jump shot, for which he clearly has natural talent, as defenses have adjusted. This season, he has been more aggressive in driving to the hoop and trying to contribute in other ways. Pitino has encouraged his star guard to get to the line as much as possible, calling Hollins “very tough to guard” and “one of the best [foul shooters] in the history of our program.”
Already he’s doing a better job, getting to the line an average of six times per game so far this season — and an average of 7.5 times in the past four games — after toeing the stripe 4.1 times per game last season. Pitino still thinks Hollins can do better, something the guard is beginning to take pride in.
“[Opponents] know I can shoot, so I’m going to have to take them off the bounce and use my shot-fake more,” Hollins said. “Just using my assets to my advantage and driving more. Don’t settle. That’s what I have an easy time falling into is just settling for threes, and I know I can make it, but I can get an even easier shot or just set up my teammate up.”
That mind-set — Hollins says he even thinks “way more aggressively” this season — has enabled him to maintain a good scoring total despite going through a recent mild shooting slump. He also gets fewer opportunities with teams guarding him tougher and with Minnesota’s plethora of guard options.
From Nov. 25 to Dec. 3, over the course of four games, Hollins shot only 29.5 percent from the field. But by making 20 of 26 free throws, he still maintained a 13.5 scoring average in that span.
“He’s always an offensive threat in some way,” junior guard DeAndre Mathieu said. “We’re not worried about Dre scoring — he’s always going to get his.”
If Hollins continues to get better at getting to the foul line while continuing to figure out the new defensive challenges opponents throw his way, he could be closing in on Thompson’s milestone late next season — even if he hasn’t really considered the possibility much up to this point.
“It wasn’t really anything that we’ve ever thought about,” senior Austin Hollins said of his good friend. “That would be pretty cool for Andre to do that. … If he does reach that milestone, I think that’s huge for him. He’s put in so much work and he’s worked extremely hard to get to the point where he is now, and he really deserves it.”