Andre Hollins finished his freshman season in March 2012 with a flourish and followers of the Gophers were convinced that he was going to be a guard to put a large imprint on the basketball program.

Hollins made 10 of 17 shots and had 25 points when the Gophers beat Northwestern in the first game of the Big Ten tournament. He was very good as the Gophers held off a talented Washington team in the semifinals of the NIT.

Andre had a no-show in the NIT final against Stanford, which put him in the same category as his teammates.

He was a considerable asset as a sophomore, scoring 20 or more points six times in the Big Ten’s regular season. Then, he made five threes and scored 28 points in the Gophers’ upset of UCLA and Shabazz Muhammad in the NCAA tournament.

That would prove to be Tubby Smith’s only NCAA victory at Minnesota. Hollins had six threes and scored 25 against Florida, but the Gophers were bounced in the second round, and then Tubby was bounced by athletic director Norwood Teague.

This was supposed to be the start of renewed energy for the Gophers. Overall, that’s probably the case with young Rich Pitino as the coach, but the coaching change has not been beneficial to Hollins.

Pitino wants guards that play fast … guards with the first step to get into the lane and raise havoc with a defense.

DeAndre Mathieu came in last season as a junior college transfer and was lightning in a small package. He was the Gophers’ best player, period.

Now, freshman Nate Mason has arrived with a similar ability to go past defenders, and with what’s going to be a better all-around game than Mathieu.

Hollins is being left behind as a senior. It’s not because he’s concerned about what his future will bring – if he’s actually going to have a pro career – after this final season. The Gophers need him to make some threes, but overall, Mathieu and Mason are better guards for Pitino’s vision of playing fast.

Speed is not Hollins’ deal. “By the standards of the top Big Ten guards, Andre’s slow,’’ I was told this summer.

This was said in a casual conversation with someone connected to the Gophers’ program. It was offered as insight, and not for attribution.

There’s not much doubt that a guard without quickness as a major asset was better served in Smith’s more methodical approach to offense. There are a few disclaimers to that:

*Pitino’s team was forced to play at the preferred, snail’s pace of several Big Ten teams during last season’s 8-10 finish in the conference. Just because you want to get the game moving doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to do that in the Big Ten.

*Hollins was putting up good numbers for Pitino last winter – averaging 16 points for the first six games in the Big Ten – before suffering a badly sprained ankle early-on vs. Wisconsin on Jan. 22.

Andre was not the same after that. He had an eventful effort at Wisconsin, getting 22, but he also was 2 for 14 and finished with eight points vs. the Badgers in the second round of the Big Ten tournament.

*Austin Hollins had a tough time as a senior in Pitino’s system last winter. He also was more suited for Tubby’s idea of offense (even if that idea was confusing for civilian observers). Austin finally was able to let it go and became a big asset for the Gophers down the stretch and during the NIT tournament.

Perhaps Andre can get fully healthy and find the same comfort level as his career winds down as did Austin.

But here’s a hint, folks:

This snag that we’re seeing from Andre at the start of the Big Ten isn’t a great deal different than what we’ve seen before. He’s been streaky, as are most shooters who aren’t overly adept at blowing past opponents (and thus keeping defenders honest).

Consider:

Andre shot 39.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He shot 41.6 percent from the field as a sophomore. He shot 37.7 percent from the field as a junior, including 32.7 percent in the 16 games after he returned from the sprained ankle.

This season, he’s shooting 42.3 percent from the field, and that includes the 6-for-29 bricklaying in the opening three losses in the Big Ten.

What’s wrong with Andre Hollins? Guaranteed, it’s not pressure over his pro future, because that’s in Turkey or Israel or the Phillipines. It’s that he’s not quick and he’s streaky, and this has been a bad streak.

And if it doesn’t end, if the shots don’t begin to fall, he’ll keep losing minutes to Mason.

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