January 7, 2010 9:23:00 AM
Ray Jay Hollivay is making the most of his opportunities when he gets his hands on the basketball.
The Itawamba Community College sophomore post player has made 80 percent of his shots (28 of 35) and ranks fourth in the nation in field goal percentage.
"He''s doing a much better job this year of finishing around the basket," ICC coach Marty Cooper said. "He''s making a high percentage because he takes high-percentage shots.
"If the guy was 6-7 or 6-8 he would just be a monster. He''s just a little bit undersized, but he gets so much done because of his effort, and he is strong. He''s strong as an ox."
Hollivay, a 6-foot-5, 245-pounder, is a 2008 graduate of New Hope High School. He has helped ICC to a 9-4 record, averaging 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
He scored a season-high 14 points at East Central on Nov. 14 and grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds Dec. 14 at Northwest Shoals.
His strength has helped him get the ball close to the basket and raise his point production.
"I would say I shield my man off and my teammates find a way to get it to me to where I''m able to finish without any trouble," Hollivay said. "It''s always in my mind once I get the ball I have to finish. As far as their big man, I try to get him in foul trouble. I try to do anything I can to help my team win."
Hollivay also has shot well from the free-throw line (70 percent). Against Northwest Shoals, he was 7 of 7 and hit four down the stretch to help preserve a 75-72 victory.
Hollivay has started six of ICC''s 13 games, getting more opportunities to start than in high school. He was used as a backup to 6-foot-9 Rashanti Harris on New Hope''s state championship team in 2008.
"I''m not in the shadow like I was in high school," Hollivay said. "I''ve had a lot of starting opportunities. It felt kind of new (starting). I started a couple of games in high school, but it wasn''t as much as I''ve started here."
But after playing his way into a part-time starting role the first half of the season, Hollivay nearly cost himself a spot on the team the second semester. There were concerns about his academic status, but he met the requirements by passing 12 hours with a 2.0 grade-point average.
Almost becoming academically ineligible opened Hollivay''s eyes that school is more important than basketball.
It''s not that Hollivay was having trouble with his subjects. He said he wasn''t applying himself.
"I would say it was sort of my fault because I was missing a lot of classes and I really wasn''t on my school work like I was supposed to be," Hollivay said. "It wasn''t anybody''s fault but my own. I feel like this semester is going to be my chance to show what I''m capable of as far as the classroom. This is my second chance. I''ve got to take more responsibility this semester so I can graduate."
Cooper confirmed Monday that Hollivay will finish the season.
"He''s eligible," Cooper said. "He just needs to stay on it a lot harder than he has been. It''s just something we''ve got to stay on him constantly about."
Hollivay is glad he is eligible for the second half the season because he believes three-time defending MACJC North Division champion ICC could have a special season.
"I think we''ve got a great chance to win a lot of games this year," Hollivay said. "As far as us having a good start I''d say it''s because of teamwork. We''ve got real good chemistry."
ICC lost to defending state champion Jones County Junior College 89-88 on Tuesday. Hollivay made both of his field goal attempts to improve his season percentage. He finished with four points and four rebounds.
1. Mississippi State's Offensive Keys vs. Kentucky COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Ole Miss gearing up for improved LSU COLLEGE SPORTS
3. MSU's Alwal hopes new habits will pay dividends COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Myles fills needed role without Lewis COLLEGE SPORTS
5. No. 1 MSU gets back to work for Kentucky COLLEGE SPORTS