MINNEAPOLIS — Quite often last year, probably more often than either would like, Gophers basketball players Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins would get asked the same question.
“Are you two brothers?”
It’s not farfetched to think the Hollinses would be related. They share a last name and both came to Minnesota from the Memphis area.
“Every now and then we’ll be like, ‘Yeah, we’re brothers,” said Austin. “We’re used to it now.”
Added Andre: “Last year, it was crazy, like, ‘Where’s your brother?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t have a brother. I’m an only child.'”
By now, it’s been well documented that Andre and Austin are not related. Austin has three siblings, and Andre has none. Austin’s father, Lionel, is the head coach of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies and a 10-year NBA player. Andre’s father, Andrew, is not.
As the Gophers have ascended to the national spotlight this season and a No. 9 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll, it’s been thanks in large part to Andre Hollins.
The sophomore point guard has made a name for himself, especially after he scored 41 points against Memphis earlier this season. Heading into Sunday’s game against Northwestern, he leads the Gophers in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game.
While Andre Hollins has joined seniors Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams as faces of this Minnesota team, Austin Hollins’ contributions can’t go overlooked. He’s third on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg), has a team-high 30 steals and has made 82.4 percent of his free throws, the second-highest mark on the team. All of Austin Hollins’ numbers are up from his sophomore year, despite playing roughly the same minutes per game.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger. I’ve gotten a lot more aggressive,” Austin Hollins said. “I’m trying to be an all-around player, do whatever it takes to help this team win.”
For most of his career at Minnesota, Austin Hollins has made an impression first and foremost on the defensive side of the ball. The 6-foot-4 guard has the lengthy wingspan to be a lockdown on-the-ball defender, but he also has the awareness necessary to defend players away from the ball or help out when his teammates get in trouble.
“He’s usually the guy who’s covering the opposing team’s best player,” Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. “I don’t care what position that opposing best player is playing. We usually can count on Austin to accept that challenge and want to be that defensive stopper.”
Minnesota often seems to feed off the spark Austin Hollins’ defense ignites. Many times this season, he’s been able to turn defense into offense, whether it be a basket for himself or one of his teammates on a fast break.
“That’s where he sets the tone at, on defense. When you see how hard Austin works, you only want to go out there and match that,” Williams said. “He’s just really been a guy that we can count on for anything — to get those stops, to hit the big shots during the game.”
But Austin Hollins wants to be known for more than just his defense, and it’s starting to show more during his junior season. In the Big Ten opener against No. 19 Michigan State, he scored 12 points and was 2-of-5 from 3-point range. He also had five rebounds, four assists and a block in 32 minutes during the Gophers’ 76-63 win.
The extra work Austin Hollins has put in during practice has paid off in games.
“Austin is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had. He just outworks,” Smith said. “He’s going to come in and work on the areas he has to work on. He carries a real load for us.”
Austin Hollins said that work ethic comes from his parents, Lionel and Angela. But it doesn’t just impact how he practices. It’s also carried with him whenever he hits the books.
“That’s just how I was raised. I was taught to do everything that I do to the best of my ability,” Austin Hollins said. “Every time I step on the floor, I try to go as hard as I can. That goes in the classroom as well.”
So while those viewing the Gophers’ impressive start to the season may point to the return of Mbakwe, Williams’ high-flying dunks or Andre Hollins’ role of floor general as key reasons why, Austin Hollins has had a hand in Minnesota’s success this year, too.
“He’s a great leader for us,” Smith said. “When he hits the court, it’s not about fun and games. It’s about hard work. I think he leads by example, as well as leading in the locker room and off the court.”