Gophers guard Andre Hollins wants big wins to go with big grins

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2012 - 12:22 PM

U point guard Andre Hollins plays basketball with such exuberance that sometimes you can overlook his inner drive.

hide

Andre Hollins

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The kid with the biggest grin in the building fell to the court floor, despondent. His basketball team, the White Station Middle School Spartans, was on the playoff bubble and his misfired free throws had cost the squad a critical late-season game.

The seemingly constant smile had been wiped off the face of Andre Hollins, then an eighth-grader in Memphis, as he processed that the Spartans might not make it.

"We had to pick him up off the floor," said his father, Andrew Hollins. "He doesn't like to lose, and he learned that at a very young age."

Hollins has been through a lot of stages since then -- winning three state championships in high school before joining the Gophers last year and feeling the sting of defeat again -- but the sophomore point guard is once again a critical piece of a team that's hoping to create some late-season magic in a season that tips off Friday night against American.

And as Hollins learned last year, even after years of winning, the bite of losing still feels the same. The Gophers endured a four-game losing streak early and a six-game streak late in the Big Ten season.

"I hate losing," said Hollins, lamenting that because it had been so long since he had lost more than a game or two in a row, the feeling felt new again. "It's just my competitive nature."

Hollins was the Gophers' fifth-leading scorer last season (8.7 point per game) and wasn't their flashiest player in two exhibition games this month. Joe Coleman scored by far the most points. Rodney Williams awed with dunks. Trevor Mbakwe and Mo Walker got attention in their returns from injury.

But a college basketball team often goes only as far as a point guard will take it. As such, this much is true:

"This is Andre's team," former Gophers player and current broadcaster Kevin Lynch said. "And he's got to play like this is his team."

The 6-1, 200-pound point guard began shouldering that label at the end of last season, when as a freshman he shook off a lingering ankle injury -- the first injury of his career, and the first time he'd ever missed a game -- and guided the Gophers on an important run to the NIT championship game.

"You really saw his game grow," teammate Rodney Williams said.

Hollins started scoring in bunches, averaging 19.5 points a game in six games combined in the Big Ten tournament and NIT, before scoring four in the championship loss. And a combo guard started to look a little more like a point guard.

Coach Tubby Smith and Hollins' teammates repeated the mantra that they knew it was just a matter of time, but when Hollins actually did take control, he started building a reputation around college basketball. This year, with Minnesota considered a team not only worthy of making the NCAA tournament but also perhaps winning a game there for the first time during Smith's tenure, the country will be watching.

"I think he's going to be a tremendous player for us," Smith said. "I want to see him do a better job of taking care of the basketball. We know he can score. But I like the way he played last year."

Hollins -- who said he hasn't gained any weight but came to the first practices of the year visibly more toned -- is ready for the scrutiny.

"I feel like a point guard," he said of a position he admitted felt a little awkward playing at first, as a freshman. "All my teammates, I know they trust me and I trust them -- it's that trust factor."

Just like Dad

Talking to Andrew Hollins, it's easy to see where Andre inherits his personality. The former middle school and high school coach's voice is full of liveliness and southern charm as he warns a reporter not to let him talk her ear off.

It's no surprise young Andre seemed to have a huge grin glued to his face, no matter what he was doing.

Running sprints? Smiling. Sitting on the bench? Smiling. Playing against one of his biggest high school rivals? Full-tooth grin.

"I have to get on him -- 'Son, quit smiling! You're supposed to be mean! This is the time to be mean, get angry, you're supposed to be rough!'" Andrew said, chuckling.

It's a contagious enthusiasm that makes the rare dichotomy stunning.

After the Gophers lost to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament -- leaving them unsure whether they would play another game -- Hollins sat in the Indianapolis locker room, eyes watery and cheeks sunken in a way that made his face seem organically changed.

But Hollins always has had a second gear for the end of the year. A final surge.

After eighth-grade Hollins was picked up off the court, his team won a rematch with that opponent, and Hollins had consecutive 40-point games in the playoffs. And when the Gophers had their season extended in the NIT, Hollins was there again.

"Every year, when it comes to playoffs, he really gears up," Andrew Hollins said. "He takes it on himself as a personal type of deal, and he's done that all of his career."

Growth stop

The kid who spent his formative years as a center and forward -- Hollins was so big in elementary school, he earned the nickname "Andre the Giant" -- learned early to always look ahead.

His 5-11 father, having the foresight to know the early growth spurt might not continue at the same rate, spent Saturdays and Sundays in the gym with Andre, working on ballhandling skills and perimeter shooting.

"I said 'Son, I don't know if you're going to [always] be this tall,'" the elder Hollins said.

That effort paid off when Hollins moved from small forward to point guard in his senior year of high school. Now, Hollins knows the things that worked for him last year won't necessarily have the same effect now. Because of his end-of-season success, he knows there will be increased attention given to his proven outside shot, and that he'll have to continue to transform his game to adapt -- pump-faking and driving more often, and creating more opportunities for teammates.

But some, including Smith, believe Hollins is uniquely equipped for the job. The sophomore's demeanor keeps him steady, positive. He has long prepared for the next jump.

And a final loss -- 75-51 to Stanford in the NIT final -- left Hollins with the fire he takes into this year.

"There's still way more to do," he said, his jaw line growing rigid with intensity. "We want a chance for redemption."

And then, a moment later, a smile spilled out and spread wide over Hollins' face.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Diego 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Indiana 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Detroit
Dallas 7:00 PM
New Orleans
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Boston
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Vancouver 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Chicago 7:00 PM
Nashville
Arizona 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Carolina 8:00 PM
Calgary
Buffalo 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Columbus 9:30 PM
San Jose
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close