Austin Hollins stared straight ahead, stone-faced.
It was minutes after leaving the court following a victory over Iowa, a game that shoved the Gophers back into the NCAA tournament picture, and one that Hollins took over with a vengeance.
Coach Richard Pitino pointed at the Williams Arena locker-room wall, at a picture of a miner chipping away at a boulder five times his size.
“We talk about pounding that rock, pounding that rock,” Pitino said, pointing at Hollins. “And nobody does it more than him.”
After shooting 13-for-56 (23 percent) from three-point range in Big Ten play and scoring no more than 10 points in the previous five games, Hollins had just completed a momentous 27-point, four-rebound, four-assist performance against the Hawkeyes on Feb. 25. Pitino told his senior, in front of all his teammates, just how happy he was for him, and how much he deserved success.
Yet Hollins’ face didn’t move. It wasn’t that he didn’t care or appreciate his coach’s kind words. It’s just that Hollins takes the successes, like the struggles, in stride.
“He’s one of the least emotional [players he’s had],” Pitino said. “He’s pretty even-keeled.”
With Senior Day being observed at Sunday’s regular-season finale against Penn State, Hollins has been that steady presence — even if not always offensively — for nearly four years now, throughout the program’s ups and downs, wins and losses.
He has worked as hard or harder than anyone, both Pitino and former coach Tubby Smith have repeatedly pointed out, always bringing the same intensity, always the same attitude whether he is going through a massive slump or being publicly lauded.
At times, Pitino said, many of his players, including junior guard Andre Hollins, will have “off” practices, where they seem tired or less focused.
Not Austin Hollins.
“[Austin] is always right there,” Pitino said. “With the effort, with the intensity. Doesn’t mean he’s making all the shots like he did the other day, but his effort and his attitude is as consistent with a player as I’ve ever seen.”
Hollins and Hollins
For three years, the Gophers backcourt has been been identified by the Hollinses: two guards with the same last name, both from Memphis.
Understandably, there has been plenty of confusion — with broadcasters, writers and fans assuming some familial connection (there is none).
But over the years, the pair has stopped worrying about it..
“Sometimes we’re just like ‘Yeah, we’re brothers,’ ” said Austin, who is averaging 11.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists. “We might as well be. That’s the type of relationship we have, he’s like my brother. From the time he got here until now, our relationship has really grown.”
Those familiar with the team know the story. In high school, the two — who both wore No. 20 at the time — played ball in the same region, and both sets of parents started to notice another line in the newspaper’s box scores.