DAYTON, Ohio – It may not have necessarily been a storybook ending for senior Damian Hollis, should it prove to be an end at all, but it was at least a mixed bag of success and disappointment: a game-high 19 points and a team-best six rebounds, but also a 70-60 loss at Dayton.
What did not make it into the box score Tuesday or any other night, however, was the level of pain through which Hollis played in what is likely his last dozen games as a Colonial. Five weeks earlier, against the same team in the same arena, Hollis suffered a rib injury that limited him to 12 points that night and kept him out of the starting lineup in the team’s next game.
But Hollis was not kept off the floor for good, continuing to average more than 20 minutes per game after the injury, which he described last week as a stabbing pain that could be treated only with rest.
“Damian’s a warrior,” sophomore Tony Taylor said Tuesday. “He’s been playing through a lot more injuries than anyone else would know. He did that for his team, he did that for his coaches, he did that for the love of his school.”
While Hollis’ production slowed a bit after hurting his ribs in that Jan. 20 game – his scoring average dropped from 15.1 points per game before the injury to 11.1 after – he generally remained one of the Colonials’ steady contributors. He had two 20-point road games after the injury, scoring 23 points at Charlotte Feb. 3 and 26 at Fordham Feb. 13, narrowly missing a double-double in the latter when he also grabbed nine rebounds.
In Tuesday’s loss, Hollis came off the bench for a second time after missing Sunday’s practice, but he made an impact immediately upon taking the floor. He made his first four shots of the game, including a buzzer-beating basket, as the game entered halftime.
“He had to gut it out and that’s what seniors do,” head coach Karl Hobbs said. “I thought he showed a tremendous amount of courage today in how he played the game.”
Three of Hollis’ six rebounds came on the offensive glass, all of which he converted into quick baskets. During one stretch in the second half, the senior scored six straight points to tie the game.
All the while the injury was not far from his mind, the memory of its occurrence inspiring a pursuit of revenge.
“I was actually trying to remember who hit me and I was gonna try to get them back through the course of the game, but I couldn’t remember,” he said with a smile. “That’s what I was actually focusing on.”
Taylor said Hollis’ continued play was an “inspiration” for the team and that he hopes it served as a learning experience for the younger Colonials.
“That takes a lot of toughness,” Taylor said. “Hopefully, every single person on our team is getting tougher and mentally stronger and seeing that you can play through injuries. You just gotta keep working hard.”
Now, finally, Hollis will have time to rest. He said his plan is to let his wounds heal until he feels he is at about 90 percent strength, then get back to playing and working toward pursuing a professional career.
Until he takes the court again, his lasting basketball memory will be of those 19 points and that loss to Dayton – and he’d gladly give up the former to reverse the latter.
“If we would have won and I would have had two points, I’d be ecstatic,” he said. “It’s alright to go out with a 19-point game or whatever, but I’d rather win.”