Karl Hobbs should have his players’ families come to games more often.
In front of his parents, freshman Damian Hollis scored a career-high 15 points on six- -of-seven shooting Saturday against Temple at Smith Center.
College basketball games are not unfamiliar to Essie Hollis, Damian’s father. Essie played at Atlantic 10 rival St. Bonaventure during the mid-1970s and appeared in 25 games for the NBA’s Detroit Pistons in 1979. Perhaps because he is used to making similar plays himself, Essie watched the game stone-faced except for breaking into a guarded smile after his son converted a thunderous alley-oop in the second half.
The younger Hollis said that his parents, who live in Coral Springs, Fla., “brought a little spice from home” to Foggy Bottom. His spiced-up play helped the Colonials end a four-game losing streak. During the skid, the longest for the Colonials in three years, Hollis played his best ball yet. Against Saint Joseph’s he hit four of five shot attempts, all three-pointers, in a loss. His performances earned him A-10 Rookie of the Week honors.
It was not always this way for Hollis, whose first love was baseball. Hollis’ first foray into basketball was during middle school, where he was cut from his school team. Hoping to improve, Hollis did not have to look far for tutelage, as he enlisted the help of his father.
“That whole summer we worked and we worked and we worked, and I just advanced really fast. The next year was really easy,” Damian said.
Essie put Damian through a rigorous workout routine that helped considerably in his development. Despite picking up the game relatively late, Hobbs said that Hollis’ background helped him.
“He obviously has an understanding for the game because he’s been around it,” Hobbs said. “Those are the kind of the kids you want.”
At 6-foot-8, Hollis has the height to be a presence in the post but lacks the strength to bang down low. He spends most of his time on the perimeter, taking spot-up jumpers. His shooting stroke is short and fluid, and when successful, the ball usually hits nothing but net. To those not familiar with him, Hollis’ game can come as a surprise.
“(Damian) stepped up and made shots when he needed to,” said Temple’s first-year coach Fran Dunphy. “Before the Saint Joe’s game you would’ve said (jump shots are not a strength of his game). But obviously, against Saint Joe’s, he stepped up and made those shots and (against us) he did the same thing.”
Hollis was made available to the media for a second time this season after Saturday’s game, a departure from Hobbs’ policy to shield first-year players from the press. Making Hollis available to reporters, Hobbs said, keeps him motivated.
But the coaching staff is careful to ensure that Hollis’ ego stays in check. Hobbs said Hollis, who is averaging 4.3 points per game, tends to be overconfident. Despite back-to-back double-digit scoring games, the freshman has not yet shown he can play well consistently, Hobbs said.
“We’ve played 24 games and he had two good games,” Hobbs said.
“My philosophy is this is a show-me program. You had 14 (points) the other day? Go out and get me 14 on Wednesday.”