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Another Hollins gets an NCAA shot at UCLA

Arizona State's Lionel Hollins lost to John Wooden's Bruins in the 1975 tournament. Now his son, guard Austin, will try to help Minnesota pull an upset Thursday in the South Regional.

March 19, 2013|By Chris Foster

There is unfinished family business brewing, though Minnesota guard Austin Hollins was unaware of it.

Hollins, a 6-foot-4 guard, is eagerly anticipating his chance to play against UCLA in the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, which he will get in Austin, Texas, on Friday.

After spending Selection Sunday unsure whether the Golden Gophers would be chosen to advance, Hollins had a revelation: "We have a new opportunity."

The game fell right out of the family tree.

Lionel Hollins, Austin's father, tried to fell UCLA in 1975 while playing for a run-and-shoot Arizona State team that was blistering teams in the tournament. But the Bruins ended his run in the West Regional final. Lionel Hollins scored 16 points, but was outgunned by UCLA All-American Marques Johnson, who had 35.

Austin said his father isn't the type to brag about his career, so the topic of his last college game hadn't come up.

So much for talk about a one-man vendetta this week.

However, there is a redemption angle.

Minnesota won 15 of its first 16 games this season and was ranked as high as eighth in the nation. The Gophers defeated Memphis, Michigan State, Wisconsin and then-No. 1 Indiana — all NCAA tournament teams seeded sixth or higher — but also lost to Big Ten Conference chum Nebraska and Northwestern.

A first-round loss to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament left Minnesota with a 5-11 record in its last 16 games, so players watching the tournament selection show looked as if they lacked only a blindfold and last cigarette.

"We were nervous," Hollins said. "We were talking, eating, the normal things we would do. Then they would come back from commercial and everyone would get real quiet. Every time they said a team and it wasn't us, we got more nervous."

Hollins' season had as many ups and downs as the team.

Among the highs: His break-away dunk clinched the upset over Indiana. In a 62-59 victory over Iowa, Hollins came off a double screen and sank a three-pointer for a 60-59 lead with 12 seconds left, then forced a turnover at the other end. In a victory over Northwestern, he sank five three-point shots in three minutes after teammate Andre Hollins (no relation) said at halftime, "You need to shoot more."

"I hit the first one, then the second, and it started feeling really good," said Hollins, who averages 10.6 points a game. "I just kept shooting."

But his shooting touch deserted him at times late in the season, and his struggles coincided with the Gophers' dip. In one four-game stretch, he missed 14 consecutive three-point shots, prompting Coach Tubby Smith to say, "He's a guy we count on. When he's having a hard time, we're having a hard time."

There was only one thing to do. "Keep shooting," said Hollins, a junior.

He made three of four three-pointers and scored 16 points in the loss to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament opener.

"I hit a couple shots at Purdue at the end of the regular season and that shook me loose," Hollins said. "We went to Chicago [for the tournament] and I started feeling it again."

Hollins can be a lanky handful, capable of hurting an opponent with perimeter shooting or by slashing to the basket. If ever there was a father's son …

Lionel Hollins, now coach of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, was instant offense in two seasons at Arizona State. He was an All-America choice in 1975 when the Sun Devils had a record of 25-4 but ran into UCLA's last national championship team under John Wooden.

Hollins was the sixth overall pick by Portland in the 1975 NBA draft and was a key member of the Trail Blazers' championship team in 1977, playing alongside former UCLA star Bill Walton.

These were accomplishments Austin Hollins knew only a little about as a child.

"He would talk a little about his career, but it wasn't much," Austin said of his father. "I did know he was on the 1977 team."

As for the 1975 game: "He never mentioned it."

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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