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Austin Hollins

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

Austin Hollins takes a measured approach for U basketball team

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO
  • Star Tribune
  • November 18, 2012 - 9:21 AM

There is nothing flashy about Austin Hollins.

He's not one to call attention to himself on the court with flare or dramatic reactions to good or bad. Even his dunks seem reserved -- he won't hang on the rim, instead opting to quickly get back on defense. In the locker room, the junior is the pillar of maturity, answering reporters' questions in a thoughtful but concise manner. It's clear he's one of the boys, but he's not the one goofing around behind a media scrum to make a teammate laugh during an interview, and you won't see him standing up on a chair to dance to some blasting song.

Those are roles for other team members.

But Hollins, now an upperclassman, has been a major key to the Gophers success early with his steady-and-sure approach.

"Austin is going to give you everything he has," coach Tubby Smith said of a player he has called his most reliable.

At the start of the season, the Gophers were facing plenty of question marks, including whether a group that struggled from the outside last year would really be able to make shots.

Hollins, probably the most consistent shooter in the starting lineup (Julian Welch led the team in three-point percentage last season) was pegged as they key for the Gophers' shooting hopes: If they were going to be good from distance, he needed to be good.

While the Memphis native has certainly provided a lift in that area in the past two games -- hitting a total of five three-pointers in that span -- his greatest impact has actually been elsewhere.

"He's our defensive leader," Smith said. "I think he's our [best] all-around player."

Hollins' feisty defensive mindset, and his ability to get his long arms in passing lanes and disrupt the opponents' offense has jump-started a team that has found early success on that end.

"That's what coach preaches to us all the time -- defense, defense, defense," Rodney Williams said.

Of course that doesn't mean Hollins has neglected his offensive role. After his 12 points on Thursday against Tennessee State, he's averaging 15 points a game, which leads the team, and he has been the answer recently for three-point shots. It's not something that just comes naturally for the 6-4, 185-pound guard -- he puts the extra time in again and again.

"He's our hardest worker by far, I mean it's not even close," Smith said of Hollins, also noting he has significantly increased his physical strength and is now in the best shape of his career. "He can go forever."

As such, Hollins is averaging the most minutes of any teammate -- 25.3 -- an advantage that would be even greater if not for the Gophers' game against Toledo, in which Smith played him just 17 minutes due to foul trouble.

Hollins usually uses all that time efficiently, even if it's not flashy and even if it's not always recognized.

"I'm just trying to be consistent all around," he said. "If the team needs me to score, I'm going to try and go out there and score. I'm trying to get rebounds, I'm trying to get assists, I'm trying to force turnovers."

In other words, whatever the team needs, he'll do it. But don't mistake his agreeableness with a lack of confidence; his boldness is a growing trait that's evident just by talking to Hollins this season.

"He's becoming a little more outspoken and extroverted and I think that's helped," Smith said. "He's grown up some. He's a kid that wants to please so bad, and I think he's overcoming the fear ... I don't know, the fear that we all have at some point in time."

Hollins' new comfort level is evident, and it's showing up in his play. Just don't expect him to jump on any chairs and start dancing anytime soon.

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