At the end of last season, Andre Hollins was one of the Gophers' statistical leaders and perhaps the biggest spark plug in the postseason.
So it’s understandable why fans – given the sophomore's modest offensive stats so far this season (he had a total of 10 points coming into the Tennessee St. game) – might wonder what’s “wrong.”
But the truth is, there is still a lot more for the young point guard to learn. It’s only his second college season, and his third in a position that otherwise has been pretty foreign to him his whole life (Hollins played a range from small forward to center as a youth player, so some patience is called for.
Still, a performance like last night’s -- 13 points, five assists and four rebounds -- as the Gophers head into a tough five-game stretch, is highly encouraging. Minnesota has won easily in three games now, and by all appearances has been doing fine without much offensive effort from the sophomore. But make no mistake – this team needs strong performances from Hollins.
“It means a lot,” teammate, junior Austin Hollins said. “He didn’t look to score all the time (on Thursday), but we all know that he’s capable of scoring, and when he scores, it really takes the pressure off of everyone else. I mean it really helps.”
Turnovers were the biggest problem for Hollins last season, when he led the team. This year he’s been very vocal on his desire to cut down on them, and while he certainly hasn’t been perfect, he hasn’t been awful either, averaging 2.6 a game (three on Thursday) compared with 4.3 assists.
“He was better tonight than the other night, and I like to see him taking care of the ball,” coach Tubby Smith said. “I was pleased with him tonight, distributing the ball. … I think he’s understanding more of what a point guard role should be and that’s helped.”
That part will come as he gets more confident in the offense and in his role. But as a “scoring” point guard, the success from the field last night was particularly encouraging. Hollins hit two of three 3-pointers (both in the first half) and converted five of his seven shots overall. Hollins was shooting just 13 percent from the field coming in.
He wasn’t shooting the ball particularly great the first two games and I just told him ‘Keep shooting’” Austin Hollins said. “That doesn’t mean that he can’t shoot because he wasn’t hitting any shots. And he did, and he started knocking them down tonight. You could tell he was playing with a lot more confidence. It’s nice to see all that hard work pay off.”