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Indiana's Hollowell has the right answers

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Tipoff: Indiana vs. Illinois/Minnesota, Big Ten tourney, noon, Friday
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Freshman makes off-the-bench impact

Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 4:06 am

BLOOMINGTON -- If you're Jeremy Hollowell, you've got to hate the bench.

You have to get past the great game views and get to the heart of the matter, which is if you want to play on this Indiana national title contender, and you'd better believe Hollowell does, you've got to do more than what's expected because that is, well, expected.

It's taken Hollowell to the cusp of the postseason to figure that out, but the 6-8 freshman forward has. As a result, he's playing more, sitting less. That's certain to continue during Friday's Big Ten tourney quarterfinal matchup against either Minnesota or Illinois at Chicago's United Center.

No, Hollowell is not at Yogi Ferrell's freshman-impact level, but nobody expected that so soon.

Check that. Nobody expected that who understood the situation.

"His work ethic improved, not just in practice, but his off-day work," coach Tom Crean said. "When a guy continues to feel it and that passion starts to burn and he wants to be on the court, that's when it happens.”

And so it has.

Hollowell has bought into the Jordan Hulls-Victor Oladipo-Will Sheehey work-extra approach. It's not at their 24/7 level yet, but the upgrade has been noticed by teammates, coaches and stats keepers.

“I'm just getting in the gym, doing extra things, working on my game,” Hollowell said. “And then it's just slowing down out there. Just taking my time and making the right play. It's really paying off for me. Just keep at it. Stay calm out there. Not force anything or rush anything.”

Hollowell was a huge second-half factor in IU's victory at Michigan on Sunday. In 12 overall minutes he scored five points, including a three-pointer, and grabbed five rebounds. Beyond that, he played consistent defense.

“In the second half I just wanted to come out and keep my cool,” he said. “I got an offensive rebound and got myself going. I knocked down an open shot.”

It was a follow-up to Hollowell's two-point, four-rebound effort in 10 off-the-bench minutes against Ohio State last week. That performance, and his work in practice, and beyond, has elevated him past veteran Derek Elston in the rotation.

“Jeremy had a great game, and we knew it was coming,” Crean said about his Michigan performance. “He's gotten better.”

Hollowell was a do-everything player at Indianapolis Lawrence Central, but had a reputation for not always playing at full throttle; there was perception that he sometimes lacked fire.

He quickly learned that won't work at IU. The Hoosiers have too much talent and experience to waste on someone who doesn't get it.

Hollowell gets it.

“Sitting on the bench kind of made me hungry to get in the gym, work on my game and do whatever I have to do to get on the court,” Hollowell said. “Defend, rebound, block shots, whatever it takes to get on the floor."

Hollowell made instant impact against non-conference patsies such as Bryant (12 points, two rebounds in 17 minutes) and North Dakota State (14 points, two rebounds in 19 minutes), but his minutes decreased as the competition improved.

His development was delayed when he missed three late December games because IU officials kept him out while investigating a NCAA eligibility issue that resulted in the school filing a secondary violation. While school officials and Hollowell have declined to comment, reports indicate some kind of contact between an agent and a family member that was not a major violation and was not initiated by Hollowell or his family.

Regardless, in the six games before Ohio State, he'd totaled three points and five rebounds in 44 minutes.

Then he kicked it in gear.

“The biggest thing is defending and rebounding,” he said. “Just trying not to let my man score. Being help side, helping my teammates out. Definitely helping out on the glass when I can. Playing as hard as I possibly can.”

For Hollowell, and for all the reserves, Crean wants an impact that goes way beyond scoring.

“I'm looking at, are they engaged? Are they on the glass? Are they talking on defense? Are they trying to play the coverages the right way? Are they bringing fatigue to the game?”

For Hollowell, for now, the answers are yes.