This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Austin Hollins capped his Gophers career, legacy with Andre Hollins, memorably

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: April 6, 2014 - 1:49 PM

Austin Hollins didn't even try to relive it.

He couldn't. He was too busy shyly smiling and bowing his head and acting like he wanted to change the subject.

"It's indescribable," he said, meaning just that.

Less than an hour earlier, before all the fanfare and the pictures and the cutting down of the NIT championship net, he seized the last assist from his longtime backcourt mate and close friend, Andre Hollins, planted his feet and capped a four-year career in maroon and gold with an arching, 21-foot meridian. 

When the ball left his hands, the tie was erased. The Gophers wouldn't lose that lead, ultimately claiming the 65-63 victory over Southern Methodist.

Andre Hollins knew, instantly, what it meant. 

Nearly an hour later, coach Richard Pitino first contemplated it.

"That was his last shot?" he said, interrupting the player's portion of the press conference. "I know it's not my turn, sorry ... That's the way he should have walked away as a Gopher."

His will be memorable branch of Minnesota history. The 1,000-point scorer and four-year starter competed in an NCAA tournament and a pair of NIT championships, winning the last. He'll be recalled as an understated leader, one of the team's hardest and most consistent workers and perhaps one of the more underrated defensive specialists in the Big Ten.

And he'll be remembered in combination with Andre Hollins

He and Andre have long been linked together for obvious reasons: the unrelated duo hails from the same part of Tennessee, share a last name and, coincidentally, a No. 20 jersey at competing high schools. At Minnesota, they grew together and found a special chemistry.

"Coming in together, the Hollins bros -- just putting it work and we've become friends," Andre started. He wanted to wrap up the pair's relationship in a few certain words, but there was another celebration happening at mid court, so instead he sprinted off, mid-sentence to join Austin and the rest of his "bros."

Then again, putting the past three years in words would probably be tough.

He has seen his fellow Memphis native through the good and the bad: the wins, the losses, the personal successes and the struggles. This year, both of the starting guard mainstays had to adjust when former coach Tubby Smith was fired after the previous season and Pitino took over in his place. In the new system, each had their ups and downs. The elder Hollins started out the year hot, looking like a natural for the new pushed pace and fluidity on offense and averaging nearly 14 points a game in his first 11. But mired in half-court settings and forced up against the tough man-to-man defenses of the Big Ten, the lanky guard began to struggle. From January 1 to February 22, Hollins failed to score in double digits nine times and went 13-for-56 from three-point range in that stretch. 

On the senior's way out the door, he found a new stride again. After finishing up the conference season with 80 points in his final five games, Hollins had scored a new career-high 32 against Southern Miss in the NIT quarterfinals and 17 in a gutty performance vs. Florida State in the semis. The long triple made 19 in the final, and it pushed the Gophers to their final lead with 45 seconds to go. Andre just started screaming, later saying he's never been so happy for a teammate's shot.

A little while later, after the clock winded down and his father, former NBA coach Lionel Hollins, and mother piled on the court with the rest of the gleeful, tearful families, Austin slipped off his damp white Minnesota home jersey for the last time.

There will be more words. For now, the Gophers are enjoying the last act of 2013-14. That night, Andre only had a few short sentences for the teammate he calls his best friend. 

"Congratulations bro. I love you man. This is awesome."

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT