COLUMBIA – Missouri women’s basketball coach Cindy Stein says the Tigers need Alyssa Hollins to have games like the one she had on Thursday.
The junior guard scored 20 points and had five assists, three steals and two blocks in Missouri’s 69-51 win over Eastern Illinois at Mizzou Arena, but her most important contribution this season will be her evolution into the Tigers’ leader.
“Her leadership is more important to us than her points,” Stein said. “She’s a very natural leader, and she’s a very good leader.”
The transition to a leadership role has been a quick one for Hollins. Last year’s squad featured seven seniors, and she was able to sit back and learn from the veteran players. Now, as the team’s only returning starter, she’s the one who has to do the teaching.
“It’s very important to me, I think I’m embracing the role,” Hollins said. “Being a leader is hard work, but I think the rewards will be great. I enjoy the role and it’s a work in progress, but it’s going pretty good.”
Her leadership showed on the court on Thursday. She was constantly alert, paying attention to what she had to do and making sure her younger teammates were in the right spots.
“I think that she’s a very good leader,” sophomore forward Jessra Johnson said. “Being the only returning starter from last year, she steps up every day in practice. She knows what needs to be done on the court also. She’s like another point guard out there. She’s directing everyone, telling people what to do.”
She also showed her growth in how she reacted to her poor performance in the season opener. Hollins made just two-of-13 shots for four points in what was a disappointing debut. But she didn’t let it get to her, and when asked on Thursday about rebounding from the rough game, she simply laughed off her tough start.
Stein said that was the same approach Hollins took in practice this week, and her demeanor set a good example for the rest of the team.
“The kids saw that Alyssa may not have hit the first game, but they saw her working on her shot and still looking to shoot,” Stein said. “I think they can learn a lot from that kind of example.”
Setting a good example is something Hollins says she must do for the eight players on the team younger than her. One of the things she struggles with at times is making sure not to get down on herself or any of her teammates when mistakes are made.
“The thing that’s hard is kind of fighting off frustration, because it’s hard with new girls,” Hollins said. “But that’s something I’m doing well on a daily basis in practice, just trying to be positive and try to keep talking to everybody so everybody’s still learning and we’re getting better every day.”
JOHNSON CONTINUES TO IMPRESS: Johnson had her second straight strong game of the season. She scored 22 points and 19 rebounds for her first career double-double. She was especially strong in the second half when she scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
HANNEMAN RETURNS: Sophomore forward Amanda Hanneman played 12 minutes on Thursday after sitting out the season opener to rest the stress fracture in her right foot. She made what the Tigers hope to be the first of many three-pointers early in the second half and finished with five points.
“Amanda’s just getting healthy,” Stein said. “Everybody can see she can shoot the ball really well.”