Gophers guard Andre Hollins makes youthful mistakes, but the good news is he learns from them.
The facts are these:
1. Andre Hollins has shown he can hang in the Gophers starting lineup, and has justified Tubby Smith giving him a second chance there, as the coach hinted on Monday.
2. He is still a freshman, and in many ways an excitable kid, the kind who gives away his unannounced status as a starter in Tuesday night's game against No. 6 Ohio State.
"I think so," said Hollins, grinning, when asked whether he would be starting Tuesday -- a detail Smith wouldn't confirm one way or the other. "I'm in [a] maroon [practice jersey] today, so yeah, I'm a starter."
At this juncture of the season, the move couldn't make more sense. The Gophers head into an incredibly tough matchup with only six games left on the regular-season docket, four of them against nationally ranked teams. They need a spark, and quickly, if they want to keep their dreams alive of getting an NCAA bid.
"We're just trying to find the guys we need to get the ball in their hands, and he's one of the guys we think can do that," Smith said. "I just see him being able to do certain things."
Smith saw that at the beginning of the season, too, but it was just the start of Hollins' evolution with the team. The freshman started at point guard from Day 1, but after a month of uneven productivity, an ankle injury proved to be the final straw.
Smith took Hollins -- who had since transitioned to more of a shooting guard in the new three-guard offense -- out of the starting lineup in favor of Maverick Ahanmisi, then Julian Welch.
"I think I went through my whole spell where everything was just tough -- practice was tough, playing was tough -- and the ankle injury just compounded everything," Hollins said.
And then something clicked. In the game at Michigan State, the team faced a new level of physicality than they had all year. The Gophers lost, but Hollins was inspired.
"I think it was just the key of playing hard," he said. "Just playing harder and more consistently."
Hollins responded enthusiastically. Against Illinois Jan. 28, the freshman scored 12 points in the second half and overtime, hitting a three-pointer and two free throws near the end of regulation of the eventual victory. In the Wisconsin game Thursday, Hollins went off for a career-high 20 points and was the major impetus in the Gophers turning a lopsided game around and forcing overtime.
Of course, Hollins is still a freshman -- sometimes frustratingly, sometimes refreshingly -- in many ways. He grins at most questions and has the tendency to call everyone "sir and "ma'am." He's had to learn the importance of playing solid defense. And he doesn't always take the right shots.
But there is a growing aspect of Hollins' persona that exhibits both his rawness and his maturity: The freshman is not afraid to learn from his mistakes.
And now he's confident enough to put it all together.
|St. Louis||2||3rd Prd 15:39|
|Los Angeles||4||3rd Prd 16:11|
|Fla Gulf Coast||60|
|William & Mary||75||FINAL|
|Ga Southern||23||2nd Half 15:39|
|Western Ill||17||1st Half 3:47|
|South Dakota St||20|
|Mount St Marys||75|
|(18) Oklahoma St||61||FINAL|
|(7) West Virginia||67|
|(2) Notre Dame||69|
|Marquette||23||1st Half 4:33|