March 5, 2013
By Bill Bennett
For Pasadena native and UCLA basketball alumnus Ryan Hollins, July 23, 2012 was a day to remember.
On that day, Hollins, an NBA free agent who spent the 2011-12 season with Cleveland and Boston, was returning home a Los Angeles Clipper, a member of one of the most successful teams during the 2012-13 NBA season.
Hollins first made his mark on the Los Angeles sports scene as a basketball and track & field standout at Pasadena's John Muir HS. During his UCLA career from 2003-06, the 7-footer appeared in 113 games, averaging 5.7 points, 4.0 rebounds while shooting .575 (225-391) from the field. His 101 career blocked shots rank No. 5 in school history.
As a senior in 2006, Hollins led the Bruins to the NCAA Championship game, where they lost to Florida, 73-57. He was named the Oakland Region Most Outstanding Player after a 12 point/8 rebound performance against Gonzaga in the Regional Final and a 14 point/9 rebound effort against Memphis in the Sweet 16. The Bruins also won the Pac-10 regular season, Pac-10 Tournament and, at the time, tied a school record for most wins (32-7 overall).
Competing with the UCLA track & field team after the basketball season, Hollins placed ninth at the NCAA Regional and sixth at the Pac-10 Championships in the high jump as a freshman in 2003.
Following his UCLA career, Hollins was a second round selection in the NBA Draft by the Charlotte Bobcats. For the next six years, he played with Charlotte, Dallas, Minnesota, Cleveland and Boston. Prior to the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, Hollins had appeared in 314 games (55 starts), including 26 NBA playoff contests with Dallas and Boston, during which he averaged 13.0 minutes, 4.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and shot .557 from the field.
This year with the Clippers, Hollins has appeared in 43 games, averaging 9.6 minutes, 2.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and shooting .577 from the field and .765 from the foul line. The Clippers have had a highly-successful NBA season, holding a 43-19 overall record and first-place standing in the Western Conference Pacific Division. The team has won eight of its last 10 games and earlier had a franchise record 17-game winning streak from December-January.
On Feb. 6, when the Clippers won at Orlando, 86-76, Hollins had season-highs in minutes (24), rebounds (eight) and points (13) and also shot 5-6 from the field, 3-3 from the foul line and contributed one assist and two blocked shots.
He took time from his busy NBA schedule for a Q & A with UCLABruins.com.
UCLABruins.com: In high school, and even in college, you competed in two sports, basketball and track & field. How did you develop your interest in track & field and did you ever think about making it your primary sport?
Hollins: I never thought about making it my primary sport. My dad was actually the track star. It just came about that after basketball season, as a senior in high school, I was hanging out and really didn't have much to do. I decided to go out and compete and I ended up being pretty good at it. I loved track, it was very refreshing and a change of pace, but I am a basketball player at heart.
UCLABruins.com: Before becoming a Bruin, you committed to St. Louis University, but when its head coach Lorenzo Romar, left to become the head coach at Washington, you signed with UCLA. What factors eventually led you to becoming a Bruin?
Hollins: Coach Lorenzo Romar was there, and I was going to follow him to Washington. I think he knew that the only school in the country that could have pulled me away was UCLA. I remember in our recruiting talks he asked me, `If you have one school you could go to right now, what would it be?' and he knew it would be UCLA. It was one of the toughest decisions of my life, but UCLA is just that special.
UCLABruins.com: As a senior in 2006, UCLA had a 12-game winning streak going into the NCAA championship game with Florida. What were the elements of that Bruin team that made it so successful?
Hollins: We knew we had talent to start. That wasn't enough, but at some point in the season we were humbled. We knew that it took all the little things for us to be able to win and go as far as we did, and we trusted ourselves and our teammates.
UCLABruins.com: At the 2006 NCAA Oakland Regional, the Bruins had their historic come-back win over Gonzaga and beat Memphis to advance to the NCAA Final Four. You were the region's `Outstanding Player,' what are your highlight moments from the Oakland Regional?
Hollins: I will never forget the resilience of the team. That second half (vs. Gonzaga) we came out with the attitude that whatever happened, we will keep fighting. I think that was the theme of the season: that we wouldn't quit on anything even though it looked bleak at times. Even more than that, I will never forget the end of the Gonzaga game, it just capitalized our season. No one really thought we would get to the point we got to, and it was just this feeling of vindication and hard work, trust and faith.
UCLABruins.com: In your opinion, what are the major differences and similarities between NBA and college basketball?
Hollins: In the NBA, you put a price tag on the players; it's now business. In college, as much as possible, you play for the love of the sport. It's very humble. You're a student-athlete; you've got to go to class. It's really a privilege to be at your university and play and compete for your school.
UCLABruins.com: This has happened to you twice in your NBA career; what are all the things a player goes through when he's traded to another team (in another city) during the middle of the season?
Hollins: It's tough. It's part of being a professional. It's part of why we get paid what we do, to handle that and succeed and move ourselves and our families. It's really a change of lifestyle. It separates who's made for the NBA and who's not.
UCLABruins.com: Describe this year's Clippers squad, one of the most successful teams during this current NBA season.
Hollins: We're together, we're obviously talented, but above all we've got a really, really great group of guys in the locker room that enjoy each other and try and do the right things on and off the court.
UCLABruins.com: As a Clipper, you are surrounded by Bruins, teammate Matt Barnes, Director of Operations Gerald Madkins, video staff member Natalie Nakase and your agent is Todd Ramasar. It must be a good feeling being back home in Los Angeles and hanging out with your Bruin friends.
Hollins: It really is a surreal feeling. I don't think I've let it hit me yet to actually have one of my former Bruin coaches as the Director of Basketball Operations. Natalie was the point guard of our women's team, Matt's been here. Being back home is really an amazing feeling. Just to have my friends and family close is great. It's home, that's the best way to say it.
UCLABruins.com: Describe your role on this year's Clipper squad.
Hollins: I'm the energy guy. A guy that comes in, works hard, is a professional. I'm one of the veterans in the league and on this team. I've got to try and bring my experience and what it's worth to this organization and this team.
UCLABruins.com: At the end of the 2010-11 campaign and through a program offered by the NBA, you attended Syracuse University and took a broadcasting class. When the NBA lockout stalled the start of the 2011-12 season, Fox Sports in Los Angeles hired you for UCLA pre and post-game shows. When your NBA career comes to an end, do you have an interest in sports broadcasting?
Hollins: Of course. I would love to be doing NBA games, or coming back home and sitting alongside Don MacLean and doing some Bruin games. I love the game of basketball so much, so any way shape or form or fashion I can be around it. That's really what I love about broadcasting, the challenge that it brings to work at a new craft and be good.