December 26, 2012 11:06:01 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Rachel Hollivay has her sights set on big things in 2013.
If the last game is any indication, the former standout at New Hope High School and at Heritage Academy appears ready to deliver.
Hollivay had a career-high 10 points in a season-high 14 minutes Dec. 21 in the Rutgers University women's basketball team's 72-44 victory against Stony Brook University. After spending the past few days with family in Mississippi, Hollivay is set to return to Piscataway, N.J., to prepare for Rutgers' game against No. 13 University of Tennessee at 1 p.m. Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn.
"I want to get this team to the Final Four," Hollivay said. "We have a really good chance of getting there. I just want to keep producing and coming like I can and like I will be doing in the future."
Hollivay, a 6-foot-4 freshman center, is confident she and the Scarlet Knights (8-3) will be able to produce big things in the New Year.
Hollivay is averaging 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 6.8 minutes per game. She is shooting 43.5 percent from the field. She said the transition from Amateur Athletic Union and high school basketball to major Division I college basketball has been about what she has expected. She also said the reports of what it is like to play for veteran coach C. Vivian Stringer haven't all been true.
"Everybody was like when I got there, 'She is mean, she is mean,' " Hollivay said. "She is not mean at all. You don't take (how she acts toward you) to heart. At first, I did and I thought she was on me all of the time. Then I realized she is trying to make me better."
Hollivay said being away from home has been the biggest adjustment. While she spent time away from her family playing AAU basketball with Essence, which is based out of Florida, Hollivay said she keeps up with family on the phone, Facebook, and on Skype. She said those methods of communication of helped ease the homesickness she initially felt.
Hollivay also has had to adjust to the weather in the Northeast. She said she wasn't ready for temperatures that sunk below freezing and that she has combated the snow and freezing temperatures by wearing multiple layers to stay warm.
On the court, Hollivay hopes the use of a new contact lens for her left eye will help her make an even bigger contribution. Hollivay injured the eye in 2009 when she was involved in an automobile accident. She feels she has made progress from the beginning of the season when she thought she was a freshman who knew more than typical first-year players.
"When I got there, I was like, 'I know this, I know this,' " Hollivay said. "I didn't really know anything. There was a lot of stuff I had to learn. I am still learning now."
Hollivay knew Stringer, a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, is a stickler for defense when she arrived on campus. Still, she said she didn't realize the extent of the things she needed to do on defense and on offense to maximize her potential. Since that realization, Hollivay said she has grown so much as a player and as a young woman.
Another transition Hollivay is making is learning how to play two positions. In high school and in AAU ball, Hollivay spent most of her time at center, or the five. At Rutgers, Hollivay is playing at center and at power forward, or the four. She said the move to power forward has allowed her to spend more time facing the basket. She said she is trying to improve the consistency of her perimeter game. She said she also has more chances to create scoring chances when she is on the wing.
"I am coming along really well," Hollivay said.
Hollivay said she has made the biggest improvement in her mental game. She acknowledged she could have done more in high school to change the perception people had of her and the attitude she had. Now, though, she feels fortunate to be playing for a coach and to have learned as much as she has had from all the coaches who helped her get to this point. She is excited to learn even more from Stringer and to become a player who one day realizes a professional dream and plays in the WNBA.
"When I got there, I was just annoyed with stuff," Hollivay said. "As time went on, the players became my family. On the basketball court, I used to get mad all of the time, like when somebody fouled me hard. In the games now, when the foul me I am happy because I know I am going to the line.
"When I got there, I knew I had to change my attitude, so from the first practice I had a good attitude."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.