Can Andre Hollins continue his strong postseason play?
- Blog Post by: Amelia Rayno
- March 12, 2014 - 11:47 AM
Perhaps it's because he looks at it as "put up or die," rather than "put up or be eliminated."
Perhaps it's because he loathes those rare moments when his smile washes away as much as those who watch the perpetually grinning guard do.
Perhaps the sudden urgency awakens a drive that isn't always stirred -- even if it should be.
But for whatever reason, Andre Hollins has made a habit of accelerating his game in the postseason.
"That's happened since high school -- I always take it up another level when it comes to the postseason," Hollins said. "Just the mentality, not wanting to go home early ... I just take that to heart and leave it all out there on the floor."
Last season, the guard had two of his highest-scoring games of the season in the NCAA tournament, notching 28 points against UCLA and 25 points against Florida. In his freshman campaign, Hollins exploded for career-highs of 25 and 21 points in the Big Ten tournament before continuing the surge in the NIT. In that postseason, he averaged 17.3 points a game after averaging 6.6 for the rest of the year.
This year, more than any, the Gophers could benefit from such a spark.
Hollins, who received an All-Big Ten honorable mention this week from both coaches and the media, severely sprained his left ankle in Minnesota's win against Wisconsin at home. Though he came back three games later, he hasn't looked like the same player since. In the last three games, the guard has managed 37 combined points, but he's seemed hesitant at times and untrusting in his own ability when he tries to drive to the hoop.
After the Gophers' season-finale win over Penn State on Sunday, Hollins said his ankle was "100 percent" healed.
"I think with his injury, a lot of it's been mental," coach Richard Pitino said. "He'll make some moves sometimes where he thinks he's about to go by a guy, but maybe that ankle's not as great as it's been. But I think he's got better basketball in him. So I hope it's in the postseason."
If there truly is an extra gear, its hard to understand why Hollins can't access it all the time.
Since the start of the Big Ten slate, Hollins has averaged 13.3 points a game -- 1.3 points fewer than he averaged through 18 league games a year ago. He has had nice performances, but he hasn't really taken the next step than many thought he would, and he's rarely taken over games in vintage fashion. With the Gophers' roster holding more scoring options than it has in the past, there are times where he appears indifferent about getting involved.
"I don't know if I had very, very high expectations," Pitino said of Hollins' season thus far. "I thought he was a good player and I think he is a good player. Then he got hurt and I think it slowed him down ... hopefully he's close because we need him."
New life from Hollins now would change the look of the team. With Austin Hollins coming out of his slump in the last three games, and point guard DeAndre Mathieu and center Mo Walker continuing to play at a high level, the Gophers offense seems to be peaking. But a fourth consistent scorer would give Minnesota even more options, and a larger safety net for "off-games" by others.
Hollins not without motivation. And maybe the confidence of a history packed full of postseason success will give him the extra nudge he needs.
"I love this time of year," he said. "It's put up or die ... The lights are on. It's win or go home. And I don't want to go home."
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