February 10, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
A more patient Rachel Hollivay is a scary proposition for opponents who dare to venture into the lane.
The Caledonia High School girls basketball team discovered just how dominating the 6-foot-4 freshman center can be last week when she scored 22 points and blocked 17 shots in a 49-32 victory.
Yes, that''s correct. Seventeen.
For her accomplishment, Hollivay is The Commercial Dispatch''s Prep Player of the Week.
A year ago, Hollivay never would have stayed in the game long enough to have a chance to block even 10 shots. She admits she was a little too swat happy and would fall victim to shot fakes or overanxiousness.
A summer spent on the Amateur Athletic Union circuit with the Tallahassee Essence helped Hollivay appreciate the importance of staying on her feet and then letting her height and her long arms do the rest.
"Last year, I used to block everything and get into foul trouble real quick," said Hollivay, who plans to play for the Essence again this summer. "I talked to my AAU coach and everybody keeps telling me to keep my hands straight up. When they let the ball go, I block it. Even with bigger players I still do that and block the shot."
New Hope coach Tim Vaughan said Hollivay made significant improvement from her eighth-grade season to this season. He said people sometimes forget Hollivay still is only a freshman, in part because her skills are so developed.
"A lot of times, you see someone who is tall and they''re not coordinated," Vaughan said. "She has worked on that a lot on her own. In the summertime she really matured."
Vaughan said Hollivay is waiting for players to shoot the ball and then try to block it, rather than swatting first and then fouling. As a result, Hollivay has been able to stay on the floor longer and be an eraser in the middle of the Lady Trojans'' zone defense.
"I can''t teach her how to block a shot," Vaughan said. "I am 5-6. If they bring it down, I can get it, that''s why I tell her to keep the ball up. She is just developing as a player."
Vaughan said he wasn''t sure if Hollivay''s 17 blocked shots is a school record. If it isn''t, Valerie Rushing, a member of the 1981 and 1984 state championship teams, likely holds the record.
Hollivay has a guard''s ability to handle the basketball. She also has the athleticism to go from baseline to baseline and be a factor at both ends.
Hollivay acknowledges she sometimes goes too fast and tries to do things too quickly, especially on the offensive end. But she said she feels good about the progress she has made from last year, and that she is excited to continue to mature on and off the basketball court.
"I worked on all of my post moves (last summer)," Hollivay said. "I have a great AAU coach who knows what she is doing. The dribbling I worked on by myself. The fundamentals she taught me have made me a better player."
Hollivay always will have to fight the urge to block every shot, especially in high school, because she has that ability. But Hollivay is enough of a student of the game to realize she can''t play the game like that.
She also knows it is much too early to get distracted by outside influences or to get caught up in the fact that coaches from Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida, and Florida State are just some of the ones who are watching her development in hopes of recruiting her into their programs.
"My dad told me to stay away from boys, and I am trying to do that, but it is kind of hard," Hollivay said. "But I am just going to keep working hard. I am in the gym 24/7. When coach Vaughan tells us not to practice I get mad because I want to practice because we have to win."
Hollivay receives instructions and encouragement from her parents and her brothers at a lot of games. Her brother, Ray Jay, is a freshman on the Itawamba Community College men''s basketball team. She said her father has helped work her out and her brother has taught her so much about being strong in the post.
Hollivay said her goal is to be a post player in college. Still, she is going to work on her all-around game (free-throw shooting and her perimeter shooting) in the next three years so she can be a threat from anywhere on the court.
In the meantime, Hollivay will continue to build a foundation on blocked shots.
"I think I have played pretty good this year," Hollivay said. "Last year, I didn''t know what I was doing. ... I don''t want to to do anything else but play basketball.
Vaughan said Hollivay has the potential to match the progression of former New Hope High basketball standout Rashanti Harris. He said Harris, who signed a national letter of intent in November to play basketball at Georgia State, worked so hard from his eighth-grade year to his senior year to get to where he is today.
Vaughan said Hollivay can be a "beast" if she works as hard on and off the court as Harris did.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.