Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tourney Run Could Help Hollins in Draft

By Dan Weber
The Press-Enterprise

Ryan Hollins may have helped himself as much as any player in Wednesday's NBA draft the past six months. The 7-foot UCLA center from Pasadena took himself from a 22-year-old with a degree in history but with no pro basketball prospects to a player who is a fixture in the second round of a number of teams' draft-day planning.

All it took was a coming-of-age second half of his senior season. He helped take the Bruins to the NCAA championship game and himself to a play-for-pay career after being selected as the Most Outstanding Player at the Oakland Regional, leading UCLA to wins over Gonzaga and Memphis with his scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking.

Q: So where do you plan to watch the draft tomorrow?

A: You know, I haven't even thought about that. In the last six weeks, I stopped by to pick up my diploma at graduation and then headed back for more workouts.

Q: How many have you had?

A: I've worked out with 12 teams, including three that I've worked out for twice -- Sacramento, Portland and New Jersey.

Q: You've also worked out for Golden State, Memphis, Toronto, Minnesota, Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston and the Lakers before going to Orlando two weeks ago for the pre-draft camp where scouts from as many as 20 teams got a look at you in private workouts. What's the toughest thing about all of this?

A: The travel. Getting though airports, checking in by yourself with the lines and the security. It's a whole different world. You're on your own. There's no one to hang out with, no teammates to talk to. It's business now. It's your career.

Q: Do people have any idea who you are?

A: They know I'm a basketball player, but the funny thing is I usually wear a plain black or dark blue warm-up and all they can do is ask, "Who do you play for?" But on my last trip to Portland, I was getting those warm-ups washed and I had on a light blue warm-up and right away, people said: "UCLA."

Q: Are the trips all the same or different?

A: Literally every place is different. Sometimes you take a cab from the airport, sometimes there's a chauffeur. Sometimes they have a team person pick you up.

Q: But are there similarities -- like measuring you, weighing you, testing your strength and athleticism?

A: I've done that every time, getting measured and weighed. Without shoes, I'm either 6-11 ½ or 6-11 ¾ (which translates to 7-feet-plus with shoes). My weight? ... 235.

Q: You've increased your weight some 10 pounds and impressed team personnel with your athleticism, both running and jumping. How has that all come together for you?

A: My trainer, Rico Hines (a former UCLA player), has done a great job preparing me.

Q: What was his best advice to you?

A: Be ready for anything to be thrown at you. But I've been so busy, I don't think I've had a chance to be nervous.

Q: Other than the basketball and Ben Howland's coaching, did anything else in your UCLA experience help you through the NBA preparations?

A: The postgame interviews. I believe it does pay off. Teams will throw some hard questions at you. After games at UCLA, you can make a comment that will change your life. But the same thing can happen here.

Q: What about the workouts themselves? What are they like?

A: Well, they always have another post player there for you to go against. The fewest I've been with was four with two other guards. There are usually a lot of people there, the head coach, a strength coach and the trainer.

Golden State had the most people to watch the workout; there were people everywhere. You don't know who they all are. They're as short as 45 minutes and as long as two hours, and they're usually in the morning. I like to get there the night before and have been able to do so for all but one of them. If you're working out on the East Coast at 8 in the morning, that's 5 a.m. here.

Q: Any other adjustments, like for the heat and humidity that a Southern California kid doesn't get to experience?

A: When I got off the plane and to my hotel in Memphis, I wanted to take a bath. But the Grizzlies had pretty modern facilities to work out in.

Q: Other highlights for you?

A: I did get a chance to have a conversation with Jerry West there. It was a real honor. And every team you go to, you see players you remember watching play who are now coaches. It's been a real pleasure.

Q: Memphis Grizzlies director of personnel Tony Barone Sr. said it this way: "This kid (Hollins) is a world-class athlete ... He's a guy that because of his athleticism is an intriguing prospect."

A: Every team has been positive with what they've said to me.

Q: Have you looked at recent mock drafts like NBADraft.net that had you going at No. 48, midway through the second round, to Washington? Or Draft Express.com, which had you going to Cleveland at No. 55? Do you pay any attention to those projections?

A: Not until the mock drafts start actually drafting people.

(reprinted with permission)


(photo credit: AP)


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