Gophers' Austin Hollins answers Pitino's call to step up his game

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2014 - 10:40 AM

Answering Richard Pitino’s call to improve his game, Austin Hollins has emerged from Andre’s shadow.


Minnesota guard Austin Hollins (20) drives against Nebraska-Omaha guard Marcus Tyus during the first half of a game in Minneapolis, Dec. 20, 2013.

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

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At the start of the 2013-14 season, new Gophers coach Richard Pitino took a good, hard look at his frontcourt and tried to picture where his rebounding would come from after Elliott Eliason, his starting center.

His gaze drifted past Mo Walker, his backup rim protector, and Joey King and Oto Osenieks, his only power forwards, and landed squarely on guard Austin Hollins.

“You,” the young coach said to his 6-4 senior, “are going to have to get us seven or eight rebounds a game.”

At the time, the request might have seemed unreasonable for outsiders, who watched Hollins, a reliable but hardly dynamic mainstay, average 3.2 boards a game last season.

What a change a new year, a new coach and a new system — seemingly tailored for Hollins’ skills and strengths — has made.

In the two months leading up to the Big Ten opener — the Gophers play Michigan at home on Thursday night — Hollins has hit a new stride. The guard is averaging 13.5 points and 7.1 rebounds while playing the team’s best all-around defense (he has 19 steals, second only to DeAndre Mathieu’s 25) and igniting the team with his dynamic highlight-reel dunks and alley-oops — a phenomenon that has emerged with a force this season.

Off the court, the senior has stayed humble and understated as ever, never the type to toot his own horn, ever working to get better.

Hollins, son of Lionel Hollins, the former head coach of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, is the player who perhaps most embodies the philosophy that Pitino is trying to instill at Minnesota. The guard is so easy to coach, it’s “almost disturbing,” Pitino has said, noting that Hollins almost reads his mind.

In drills, he’s the first player to saturate his jersey, and it usually happens on the first drill, Pitino said. At the end of practice, Hollins is the one coaxing teammates to keep up the intensity.

“If he makes a mistake, you just turn and as you’re about to [correct him], he’ll look at you like ‘I know.’ He’s that type of guy,” Pitino said. “Austin has been the most consistent guy, every drill, every film session, every practice, he is the most professional kid with everything that he does that I’ve ever been around. And now he’s reaping the rewards of it.”

Pitino calls Hollins “the consummate pro,” and the coach said the Gophers would be a “much better team” if every player had Hollins’ work ethic.

“We might not be the most talented team on the court, but we’re going to be the team that’s working the hardest,” Hollins said. “We want to be the team out there being the most aggressive and just controlling the tempo.”

The coming-out party

On Dec. 10, Austin Hollins walked into Williams Arena anticipating a night that was set up to be junior Andre Hollins’ birthday celebration.

The pair of Memphis natives — who have become so close over the past two years that they’ve stopped correcting misguided observers who assume they are brothers — were going through pregame warmups when the elder Hollins pulled his teammate aside with a joking plea.

Andre, a day away from his 21st birthday, was averaging 16.6 points at the time and was just 13 away from 1,000 career points. Austin, not quite the same consistent threat for a huge offensive game, was 17 away.

“Dre, you’ve got to wait on me,” he said, according to Andre. “You’ve got to wait on me if I don’t get it.”

Instead, the night became Austin’s coming-out party. He finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds in a performance that made him Big Ten player of the week for the first time, and highlighted all of the ways his game had dramatically improved since a year ago.

That night, the “Hollinsanity” banners in the stands seemed meant just for him, even if the term began only after Andre showed up. The latter has wowed for more than two years with his ability to explode for big games, including a 41-point performance last season against a ranked Memphis team in the Bahamas. Now, with teams game-planning for Andre more than ever, Austin has filled all the holes, taking advantage of opponents who foolishly might not be expecting as much from him.

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 73 FINAL
Prairie View 61
Florida 56
Rice 71 FINAL
Mercer 77
San Jose St 56 FINAL
Washington 78
Washington St 43 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 71
Baylor 71 FINAL
Memphis 47
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11:00 AM
Western Ky 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11:00 AM
Akron 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 12:00 PM
Toledo 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 7:30 PM
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 68 FINAL
South Florida 83
Princeton 72 FINAL
Wake Forest 55
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53
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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 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pm




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