It’s been a complicated few years for Rashaan Holloway.
The fifth-year big man will take to the Mullins Center floor for the final time on Wednesday, and to get its only honoree ready for Senior Night, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team had a little fun during Tuesday’s film session.
“Showed a little highlight video of Rashaan, couple funny pictures, couple high school highlights,” said UMass coach Matt McCall. “Those guys just tried to say something about him. He’s gone through a lot in five years here, from sitting out his freshman year, to going through a coaching change, to not being able to play last year. He’s gone through a lot.”
“Seeing how his career has unfolded over the last five years, I’m sure there’s a lot of things he would’ve liked to go differently, but I’m really trying to end it on a positive note for him.”
“I got a little senior send-off in film,” Holloway said. “It was fun, to see the impact I had on the guys, what they think about me. It warmed my heart to hear some of the nice things they said. Djery [Baptiste], I only knew him three months, he gave me a gift, a going-away gift. It’s just cool to see the impact you can have on guys in a short amount of time.”
Baptiste presented his post partner with some polo shirts during the tribute.
Holloway’s career has been a complicated one; he’s been a highly-touted recruit and an unstoppable force at his best, and he’s sat through an academic suspension and struggled to find his game at his worst. But one way or the other, the Minutemen have been glad to have him.
“I said it to him in there, but I’m forever indebted to him for how he handled himself amongst all the chaos when I first got here,” McCall said. “And there was a lot of chaos, and he handled himself with such class, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that.”
The low point for Holloway came at the start of 2018, when he missed the entire second half of the season due to academic suspension — since, McCall’s seen a different Holloway.
“I think that he has a level of appreciation for playing the game,” McCall said. “Like I said, he’s been through an enormous amount, and the thing I’m most proud of about him is that he’s going to walk away from UMass with a degree. I don’t know if anyone thought that was possible last spring, and for him to be able to do that and walk away with that piece of paper shows you just how far he’s come.”
“The fact that he’s walking away with a degree is the most improvement he’s made. He’s always been a very gifted player, great hands, great feet, ability to score, great touch, but to me, that’s the most improvement he’s made, is putting himself in a position to get his degree.”
Holloway called his time at UMass “entertaining. It was a lot of good things, lot of bad things, had ups and downs. But I’m here, I’m in UMass basketball. This is my college, this is where I went, and I appreciate it, I appreciate all the new people who I met. All the people who taught me different things, taught me different lessons, I appreciate everyone.”
“I just wanted to go into the season [after the suspension] humble and appreciate the opportunity I had to be back on the court, appreciate everything. The main thing is, I appreciated UMass, I appreciated UMass basketball, the coaches that I had. My teammates, all the teammates I had over the years, they all impacted the way I play the game and think about the game.”
Holloway’s had his troubles, and still struggles against certain matchups — in fast-paced, run-and-gun affairs with teams that don’t necessarily play a traditional big, like Nevada and VCU, he’s unplayable. But against other traditional bigs — like Richmond’s Grant Golden, with whom Holloway will face off on Wednesday — he’s unstoppable.
“I think a lot has to do with matchups,” McCall said. “When you play against a team that’s going to play motion or spread guys out and get to the perimeter, it’s hard for him to get a lot into the game. It’s just a difficult matchup for him, and teams go at him. When you’re playing against teams that have traditional frontcourt players that have their back to the basket, he can get a lot into the game in those situations. I think tomorrow’s a good matchup for him.”
“I want him to play well, I want him to end his career in Mullins Center on a positive note, and hopefully try to generate some momentum here.”
Rashaan Holloway’s legacy at UMass will be a complicated one. He’s dominated and he’s disappeared, he’s terrorized opposing big men and, with his struggles with his weight and his academics, terrorized himself at times. But after five years in Amherst, Holloway will see his career all the way through.
“I was talking to Luwane [Pipkins], our main thing is to stand together,” Holloway said. “Through the ups and downs, let’s play together. Do what we have to do to get wins. We had a rough middle of the season, we’re having a rough ending, but we only can win games from now.”
“Let’s just go out there and play together, see what happens.”
Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.