Karl Hobbs seldom makes freshmen available to the media, so when Damian Hollis strolled into the media room after GW topped Charlotte 76-68 Saturday afternoon, reporters seemed surprised. Hobbs said there was an ulterior motive in letting the freshman forward, who had 13 points against the 49ers, speak to reporters.
“As you can see he’s very well-spoken, he’s a good-looking kid, he likes having his picture in the paper and he needs a girlfriend very desperately on campus,” Hobbs said.
Love life aside, allowing Hollis to speak to the media was a psychological ploy, the sixth-year head coach said.
“I want him to get a taste and be real hungry,” Hobbs said. “I want him to be selfish a bit because I want him to play like that every game so he can come back and speak to the media.”
In Hobbs’ five years as head coach, he has relied heavily on freshmen and first-year players have often stepped up. As a freshman, Maureece Rice was rarely made available to media and last season, Rob Diggs and the now-departed Montrell McDonald were shielded from the limelight.
Hollis is different from most freshmen. In an important Atlantic 10 game, Hollis appeared to be unfazed by the atmosphere and was not hesitant to shoot, going 5-for-7 from the field, including 2-of-3 from three-point territory. He said he used the elevated energy level from the fans, players and coaches to help him elevate his game.
Unlike some inexperienced players playing in their first such game, Hollis did not let the energy level and pressure negatively affect him. After knocking a Charlotte player to the floor, Hollis could have easily let the player get up on his own, or get help from one of his teammates. Instead, Hollis walked over to the player with a sense of immediacy, reaching his hand down, lifting the player up then running back down the floor to play defense.
The cool demeanor is innate, but Hollis’ transition to college basketball has not been as easy as it has for others. He averaged 22 points a game at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs, Fla., but played a more deliberate style than he does at GW. He has averaged just 3.4 points in 11.5 minutes per game this season, but Hobbs said he saw Hollis “grow up” Saturday.
“You saw him in there banging and hitting – the guy even has a scrape on his knee from where he dove for a ball,” Hobbs said about Hollis – or his “baby,” as he called him after the press conference. “That was great to see.”
The banging and hitting made Hollis effective Saturday afternoon, but he said GW’s play is much different than high school ball in Florida.
“It’s crazy,” Hollis said of the transition to college. “I went from slow-paced high school to fast-paced college and everybody is stronger and everybody is faster. It’s just hard. I just keep working every day.”
NOTE: GW graduate Omar Williams sat under the basket next to Dom Perno, an assistant athletic director, during Saturday’s game. Williams told The Hatchet that he plans to play in Europe but does not know for which team.