Got to hang out for a few hours at the Ryan Hollins Basketball Skills Camp on Tuesday at Muir High. Here’s the story we ran in the paper, but later today I’ll post a Q&A with Hollins, who by the way is a really down to earth guy, which is good because when I think Ryan Hollins I think UCLA-Gonzaga in 2006, happy memories for all UCLA Bruins.
By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
PASADENA – Ryan Hollins learned more than a decade ago the importance of perseverance. The lanky kid who attended Stacey Augmon’s basketball camp at Muir High School was in awe that an NBA player would take the time to show fundamentals to a group of kids in the same stuffy gym where he played high school basketball.
Hollins, 25, now finds himself making that same impact as he concludes his three-day Ryan Hollins Basketball Skills Camp today at Muir, where he talks to a large group of kids who keenly listen to every word.
Hollins is the epitome of perseverance, and he speaks from experience. The former Muir High School basketball star was humbled early in his career when he was cut from freshman basketball tryouts.
It wasn’t until his junior year that he made varsity, and before he landed at UCLA, Hollins first signed with St. Louis University. He later learned that the coach recruiting him to go there left for the University of Washington.
Two weeks ago Hollins was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Cleveland Cavaliers, his fourth team in four years.
The 7-foot, 230-pound center keeps Muir close to his heart, which is why he chooses to hold his camp there and nowhere else. It’s in that same gym with seemingly endless championship banners where Augmon began his career before leading UNLV to a national championship and playing 14 seasons in the NBA.
“That was big in my life,” said Hollins, whose two free throws with 19.7 seconds left propelled UCLA to a dramatic win over Gonzaga in the 2006 NCAA regional semifinals before eventually reaching the national title game. “A lot of these kids, it’s their only chance to see something like this. I just enjoy seeing them run around and play basketball.”
Camp director Justin McCurdy said nearly 80 kids ranging from age 7 to 17 signed up, and added that he expects to end with 90 today. More than a dozen coaches – among them Thomas Scott, son of Lakers legend and Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott – split into small groups and two gyms. Also among the coaches was Chino Hills boys basketball coach Don Grant, the same coach who cut Hollins his freshman year.
“We cut him because you weren’t sure which direction he was going to go,” Grant said. “He went in the positive direction, and immediately after we cut him he asked what are three things he could do to make the team in spring. He set his eyes on the next tryout instead of bad-mouthing or pointing fingers. That’s when we knew he was special.”
Hollins, a second-round (50th overall) selection in 2006 by the Charlotte Bobcats, used that example when talking to the kids, many of whom tippy- toed as if to try looking at Hollins in the eye.
“Getting cut, kids take it as a bad thing,” Hollins said. “But that made me work even harder. When I talk to these kids, I can talk to the worst kid and the best kid because I was the worst kid once who sat at the end of the bench, and then the kid who was starting. So I can relate.”
The camp started two years ago but failed to make an appearance last year because it couldn’t secure Muir’s gym. Hollins said he hopes to make the camp a yearly event. McCurdy said he hopes it can return yearly the first week of August.
Aside from learning fundamentals and playing scrimmages, Hollins secured high-profile coaches and athletes to speak to the group. Among them was UCLA coach Ben Howland, who made an appearance Tuesday. Former UCLA star and NBA veteran Earl Watson is expected to attend today.
Also today, Hollins (No. 15) will join Augmon (No. 32), Eric McWilliams (No. 33), Jacque Vaughn (No. 11) and Tye’sha Fluker (50) as the only Muir basketball players to have their numbers retired.
“It’s an honor, because at John Muir you know it’s not just another jersey being retired,” he said. “There’s so much pride and tradition in Pasadena. That’s why I come back and do this camp.”