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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

Growing Into Role, Hollins Is Now a Cut Above

January 08, 2002|Eric Sondheimer

Ryan Hollins of Pasadena Muir High should be a hero to every person who has been cut from a basketball team.

He has gone from unwanted to sometimes unstoppable. He has transformed himself from a bench warmer to a top player on one of the best high school teams in Southern California.

To say he has improved over the last three years wouldn't do him justice.

"It's night and day," Coach Don Grant said.

Grant cut Hollins during tryouts for Muir's freshman team four years ago.

"He was 6-2, super uncoordinated and couldn't catch the ball," Grant said.

Hollins didn't give up on basketball. He started to grow. He was 6 feet 7 as a sophomore, 6-9 as a junior and reached 6-11 as a senior.

He rarely played on Muir's junior varsity team as a sophomore. He was a reserve on the varsity last season.

But Saint Louis Coach Lorenzo Romar signed Hollins to a letter of intent last November even though he had never started a game in high school.

Romar and others saw that Hollins had begun to figure out how to use his body. The improvement has been startling. This season, he's averaging 14 points and eight rebounds for the 15-0 Mustangs.

Against Montebello Schurr, Hollins made 16 of 17 shots, had 15 rebounds and scored 33 points.

It was a remarkable display of agility, coordination and competence for a 17-year-old once judged not good enough to be given a Muir uniform.

"I'm trying to show people I can play," he said.

Grant is already convinced of Hollins' skills, but he doesn't feel remorse for cutting him three years ago.

"You can't always predict and project how tall a kid is going to be," the coach said. "I think the one reason he's gotten to where he is now is he didn't get frustrated. He's a competitive kid and thrived on proving people wrong."

Hollins has put on 25 pounds, increasing his weight to 205. He predicts he'll reach 7 feet this year. He can run the court, make medium-range jumpers, block shots and dribble when necessary.

His growth spurt isn't the main reason he became a player. It was his willingness to learn the basketball fundamentals that make a difference.

"It was hard work," he said. "In the summer, during the little drills, other guys would laugh. I would take them serious. I might not be able to do them right, but I was trying hard and they started making sense."

Passing drills, shooting drills, layup drills--Hollins worked on every facet of his game.

There's no denying the impact his size makes. He can't wait to become a 7-footer.

"That would be great," he said. "A half-inch more and I'll be there."

His growth spurt is a hassle when trying to find clothes. He had two suits made for him when he was 6-8 and they no longer fit.

"When I go to church, it's tight on me and I feel awkward," he said.

There's no more awkwardness to his basketball game.

"I'm a player," he said. "I can shoot, I can pass, I can run."


While Hollins is one of the tallest players in Southern California, 14-year-old Drew Housman of Calabasas is one of the shortest.

He's 5-3, 110 pounds.

"He looks like he's 12 or 13 but plays like he's 17 or 18," Coach Russell White said.

Any time Housman is on the court, there are whispers and stares. Calabasas didn't have a varsity uniform small enough to fit him, so he uses a jersey that barely hangs on his shoulders and reaches almost to his knees if not tucked in.

An injury to Calabasas' starting point guard pushed Housman into the starting lineup for four games. During one stretch, he made eight of nine three-point attempts.

He knows his weaknesses. He understands opponents are going to try to trap him and outmuscle him.

But he has lots of strengths, from his basketball instincts to his dribbling skills.

"I've played with guys just as good on travel teams," he said. "It's not like I get banged around a lot. Once they trap me, it's tough to get out of it, but if I see it before it comes, I can avoid it."

Housman is a freshman who didn't get cut but had to prove he could survive in a game of mostly big players.

Unlike Hollins, Housman is not going to be a seven-footer. He'd settle for being a six-footer.

"If I could get to six feet, that would be real good," he said.

Either way, like Hollins, he's not giving up basketball any time soon.

"You just stay calm and be smart, even though they might be bigger than you," he said.


Eric Sondheimer can be reached at

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