The Golden Gophers will go as far as Andre Hollins can carry them this season, and Hollins will go as far as his ankles let him. The combo-guard has a good chance to become the Gophers’ all-time leading scorer, despite being healthy for only one complete season, his sophomore year. That season he scored 41 points in a game, was named third team All-Big Ten, and helped his team make the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade. Historical scoring out-bursts shouldn’t be needed this season, but if Hollins can be one of the six best guards in the conference, another tournament run would be expected.
Hollins has had two ankle injuries in his career. Late in the USC game his freshman season, he decided to try to dunk over 7’0″ 255 lb. Dewayne Dedmond. Hollins was fouled hard, bounced awkward backwards of the much taller player, and rolled his ankle. He played 26 minutes in that game. He played fewer than 20 minutes in each of the next 12 games, and didn’t really come into his own until he scored 20 points against Wisconsin, nearly three months after his injury. By then the NCAA tournament was out of reach, though Hollins’ play at the end of the regular season and in the NIT set the stage for his breakthrough sophomore season. During his sophomore season Hollins scored14.6 points per game, and was on the way to another very good season before he rolled his ankle again in the Wisconsin game his junior year. He missed the next two games, and despite playing fewer than 20 minutes in only one game the rest of the season, he was never really the same player.
The healthy Hollins was a versatile scorer. He was quick and strong enough to get to the basket but savvy enough to knock down three-pointers and mid-range jumpers off the dribble if a defender gave him too much space. During his sophomore season, a third of his made three-pointers were off the dribble. Last season, probably because he couldn’t push off on his ankle to create space for jump shots, only 27% of his made three-pointers came off the dribble. Instead of creating space for himself on the perimeter, he became more of a spot-up shooter on the outside, and not a very good one at that. Perhaps because of his ankle, or perhaps because he isn’t a very good spot up shooter, Hollins’ three-point field goal percentage dropped from 41.8% to 34.9%. There was a silver lining though. Because he was unable to shoot effectively from the outside or find space in the mid-range game, he was much more willing to take the ball to the basket and draw fouls. It wasn’t by choice. He couldn’t move laterally, and his only option was to barrel towards the basket. It worked. Hollins drew 5.2 fouls per 40 minutes last season, and averaged one free-throw attempt for every field-goal attempt, placing him among the top 400 players in the country in drawing fouls. During his sophomore season, Hollins drew 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes. Despite much worse shooting, his scoring average didn’t suffer as much as it could have thanks to to the extra free-throws.
We’ve been told that Hollins is back, and if he really is back, hopefully he can combine his versatility from his sophomore season with his knack for getting to the foul line he developed last season. Even with his shooting woes last season, he still led the Gophers in scoring. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine him scoring around 17 points per game, or more in 2014-2015. He scored nearly 15 points per game as a sophomore. Being the excellent free-throw shooter that he is, another few free-throw attempts per game would almost certainly translate to a few extra points per game. If he can manage to do that, he’ll be on an all-conference team, and the Gophers should make the NCAA tournament.