June 4, 2010 11:04:00 AM
Rachel Hollivay''s goal is to become the best basketball player she can be.
The 6-foot-5 junior also knows improved academic performance will help provide her with a solid foundation.
Hollivay''s desire to enhance her study habits recently led her and her family to explore transferring to other high schools in the area. After much consideration, the Hollivays decided Rachel would transfer from New Hope High School to Heritage Academy, a private school in Columbus.
"It is a move to get her academics in line to where after the next two years she will be ready to go to any college in the country," said Ray Hollivay, Rachel''s father. "We felt she was treated very good (at New Hope). We''re just looking at an avenue to where she can be ready academically."
Ray Hollivay said he was impressed with Heritage Academy headmaster Tommy Gunn and athletic director and girls basketball coach Bruce Allsup. He said he particularly enjoyed the academic focus both men realized the family was looking to find for Rachel.
Allsup, whose team lost Madison Ford, Morgan Lott, and Caroline Borland to graduation this season, is looking forward to having one of the nation''s top juniors join his program.
"Anytime you can add that caliber of player to your program you have to be excited," Allsup said. "We''re excited about her having the opportunity to continue her education. We''re looking for her to come here and to show a positive attitude with a great work ethic and to inspire our kids to reach another level that maybe they would not reach without her. We have a great opportunity to be a better team just because of her presence."
Hollivay is ranked No. 6 in ESPN HoopGurlz''s Terrific 25 for the Class of 2012. That ranking was released late last month. She has spent the past three weeks in Florida working with Kim Davis Powell, her coach with the Florida Essence, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball team.
Hollivay will return to Columbus on Saturday for a brief respite before traveling to Colorado Springs, Colo., where she she will participate in the Under-17 National Team Trials on June 8-11 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Last year, Hollivay was one of more than 30 players invited to Colorado Springs for the U-16 National Team Trials. Hollivay wasn''t one of the final 12 players selected for the team, which played in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the 2009 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship, but she said she learned a lot from the experience. This year, two teams will be picked from the trials. One team of 12 players will represent the U.S. in the 2010 FUBA U-17 World Championship on July 16-25 in France. Another group of four players will be picked to play on the 2010 Youth Olympic Games team.
Hollivay helped lead New Hope to its first district championship in 18 years. She has stayed busy with the Florida Essence the past few months, playing in several marquee AAU events throughout the country. She also participated last month in the Nike Skills Academy at the Suwanee Sports Academy in Atlanta. The event featured many of the nation''s top girls basketball players.
Rachel Hollivay said Thursday she is excited about the opportunity she will have at Heritage Academy and about the chance she will have next week to represent her country.
"It will be a challenge (going to Heritage Academy)," Hollivay said. "I have to take care of my study habits and keep my head on straight.
"As hard as I am working now I need to make the team because it will help make me calm down. I am working like a dog. I think I should make the team. Everyone is telling me I have a 99 percent chance of making it."
Hollivay believes she has improved "a lot" since the end of her sophomore season in high school. She said she has worked hard on her low-post moves and on her conditioning to prepare her to compete against some of the nation''s top players. She said she hopes to continue to improve her basketball skills so she can be the top-ranked player in the Class of 2012.
"I am excited to be No. 6, but my wish is to be No. 1," Hollivay said. "I think (her ranking) comes from the setback with my eye. I don''t want to use it as a holdback, but I feel I would be No. 1 if I would have kept training. I want to be No. 1. That is why right now I am in Florida so I can make this team and I am striving to be No. 1."
Last November, Hollivay and passenger Sabrina Harris were fortunate to survive an automobile accident. The teenagers walked away from the crash, but Hollivay didn''t realize glass from the windshield of her car had went into her left eye.
Several surgeries later, Hollivay opted to wear glasses to protect her eyes when she played basketball with the Lady Trojans.
Mark Adams, a former college basketball coach who covers recruiting for ESPN HoopGurlz, has watched Hollivay several times this year. He said Hollivay has made "steady" progress and that he has had to remind himself she still is a member of the Class of 2012 because his evaluations of her at events might have been too hard.
"Rachel physically has every tool," said Adams, who watched Hollivay play this past weekend in Lexington, Ky., at an event where the team lost to the Tennessee Flight in the championship game. "She has the size, mobility, the wing span, and the vertical. When she really turns it on she can be an impact player."
Adams said there are times when Hollivay isn''t as aggressive as he would like her to be and that she is content "to wander" around the perimeter. But he said she can play a power forward or a center, that she has good hands, that she can shoot it, and that she can handle the ball. He said all of those skills will give her a good chance to make the U-17 team.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
1. Sykes' faith leads him to coach at Starkville Academy HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Lessons learned helped Coggin earn promotion COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Mangum wins SEC batting title COLLEGE SPORTS