At last, Andre Hollins is feeling back to his old self.
Six months after initially spraining his left ankle, the senior guard has a spring in his step once more. Read more about his transformation in my story in Wednesday's Star Tribune, here.
I caught up with Hollins on several other topics when I talked with him. I thought I'd share them here:
In his previous three college offseasons, Hollins has put on a bit of weight in the summer, mass he then has partly worked off once the seasons gets going. This summer, he's avoiding that extra fluctuation, he said. So far he has stayed right around 195.
"I'm very happy, he said. "I'm cut, I'm getting stronger, I'm maintaining my weight, getting pretty much 100 percent healthy."
Hollins started a few new habits in the wake of his ankle injury. He practices yoga now, and stretches more. He takes ice baths. And, he said, he's started cooking.
"I make pasta, I put a chicken in the oven, heat up vegetables," Hollins said. "Nothing too extravagant."
The team has just two hours a week with the coaches this time of year. Between those workouts -- Minnesota has had just one full practice, to this point -- the Gophers get together for pickup games at Bierman Athletic building.
This season, coach Richard Pitino challenged the team to make those weekend sessions more competitive by making a wager: the losing squad has to go through an extra "special" workout with strength and conditioning coach Shaun Brown.
"It's whatever he comes up with," said Hollins of Brown's workouts, with a laugh. "Extra punishment ... We're definitely a competitive group, and that's what it takes. You have to hate to lose."
Assistant coach Dan McHale said recently that the coaches wanted Hollins' to focus on improving his explosiveness this summer. Another area the senior is keying in on is his ball control.
Hollins said after watching film, he's noticed he has the tendency to stand up too high while he's dribbling. During these offseason workouts, he's been working on keeping his stance and center of gravity low as he moves. Mastering that, he believes, will take his driving ability and his defensive quickness to the next level.
"It's a mental thing," he said. "Every day when I come in I have to tell myself, stay low, defensively and offensively, the low man wins ... It's hard sometimes because you get tired you automatically want to stand up."
While Hollins feels light years better than he did at the end of the season, his ankle still isn't technically healed. In fact, it's still swollen. The senior estimated that his left foot is still about 10 percent bigger than his right. At this point, of course, it fits comfortably in his shoe, and doesn't keep him up at night.
"It's one of those injuries that really sticks with you, probably about five years," he said. "It still bugs me a little bit but it's nothing that really hampers me or slows me down anymore. It's still just a lingering thing that's there."
The toughest part about getting hurt, Hollins said, was realizing that his body didn't react the way it normally did. Hollins would try to drive to the hoop and find that he was about a step slower than he thought he was, making the difference between him scooting past his defender and losing the opening.
What's more, the guard was accustomed to pushing off on his left -- injured -- foot for drives and layups. He began leading with the right foot instead when he returned last winter. Initially, it was extremely awkward, but slowly it has become more comfortable. As the summer began and the tenderness lingered, Hollins continue to lead with his right foot. He plans to keep the adjustment indefinitely.
"I've kind of switched now," he said.
Since JUCO transfer Carlos Morris and freshman guard Nate Mason have arrived on campus, Hollins has taken somewhat of a mentor role with the newcomers. The three of them, along with point guard DeAndre Mathieu, all work out in a group together.
"This is my fourth year here, fourth in the Big Ten, playing against some of the best competition in the nation," Hollins said. "I'm just trying to give them my experience, tell them things here and there -- what's going to work, what isn't going to work ... Little things like that so when it comes in practice, they'll already be prepared, they've already heard it. The quicker we learn it, the better we'll get."