If first impressions are as important as people say, then Damian Hollis is going fit in just fine on GW’s basketball court.
Hollis, a 6-foot-7 forward from Sunrise, Fla., rarely let the smile fade from his face while playing in the prestigious Capital Classic High School All-Star Game at the Smith Center April 13. The high school senior is set to play more basketball on that court – he has committed to GW’s men’s basketball team next year.
Hollis did not start the game for the United States All-Stars, but was first off the bench, scoring four points, grabbing six rebounds and blocking three shots. His tall, lanky frame – in pre-game introductions, he appeared to be the tallest player on his team – and athletic, versatile game fit the profile of a “GW-type of player,” as head coach Karl Hobbs has repeatedly described it.
“I’m hoping I fit in pretty well; I hope I can contribute the first year,” said Hollis, who said he will officially sign with GW this week. “I plan on posting up smaller guys; against a bigger guy, I plan on going around him to the basket.”
During the game, Hollis showed what he is capable of doing for the Colonials, as well as reminders that he is still developing as a player. He played aggressive defense and rebounded on both ends of the floor, holding his own against stronger players. He had mixed results guarding Maryland recruit Greivis Vasquez on the perimeter, a match-up that could evolve into a rivalry over the next four years.
Offensively, he hit a turnaround jumper off an offensive rebound, but followed it up with a sloppy-looking air-ball from three-point range. On his way back down the court after the miss, Hollis smiled, not forgetting that the game was just an exhibition.
Hollis’ future teammates and coaches have similar laidback demeanors, which is part of the reason he decided to come to GW over schools like North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Seton Hall. When asked what he thought about Karl Hobbs, Hollis called him “a cool guy” who is “very liberal.”
“GW was loyal since the beginning,” Hollis said. “Other teams came in and out of the picture, but GW stayed in the whole time.”
Hollis said he has gotten to know junior Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock and Clemson University transfer Cheyenne Moore, and they get along well.
Freshman forward Rob Diggs, who should compete with Hollis for playing time next year, attended the game and was impressed by what he saw.
“He looks like a nice, athletic kid,” Diggs said at halftime. “He’s energetic and looks like he likes to run, which is what we do, so he’s going to fit in really well.”
Although Hollis acknowledged that he can play the type of up-tempo game that GW is known for, he said he is at his best when doing the opposite, giving opponents a different look.
“My ability to slow it down is going to help,” Hollis said. “When everybody else is playing fast pace, I can slow it down and throw off the tempo of the game, which gives me an advantage.”
As a big, athletic forward, Hollis will be looked to for help replacing graduating senior forwards Mike Hall and Omar Williams, two of GW’s best.
“I’m going to try to do what they did, if not more,” Hollis said. “I think we have people now who can also do the same thing, so I’m just trying to fit in.”
“I’m going to enjoy playing here,” he added.
Judging by his first game at the Smith Center, he already is.
This article appeared in the April 17, 2006 issue of the Hatchet.