Her game's plenty big

Basketball: At 4 feet 11, Stacy Hollander doesn't intimidate anyone - until tip-off, when she becomes the `Muggsy Bogues of girls basketball.'

High School

January 23, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Stacy Hollander has grown a bit tired of hearing the same old question: What's a 4-foot-11 girl like you doing in a game like basketball?

"People are all the time saying to me, `You play basketball?' I'm like, `Yeah, what's your point?' "

The Beth Tfiloh point guard doesn't have much more to say about it. She prefers to let her game do the talking.

"When people are like, `Oh, it's a short girl,' it makes me play even harder," said Hollander. "They'd think, `I can take this short, little girl,' and I'd drive right past them or I'd take a shot in their face. They'd be like, `Whoa, where did she come from?' "

Even though Hollander may be the shortest player in the metro area and even though she plays at a small Pikesville Jewish day school not known for its basketball prowess, make no mistake - she's got game.

The Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference coaches voted her the best player in the conference last season.

A slick ballhandler with deceptive moves to the hoop, the senior thrives on creating offense for herself and her teammates. Going into this afternoon's 3:45 game at St. Timothy's, Hollander is averaging 19.0 points and 3.5 assists for the Warriors, who are 11-1 overall and 9-1 in the C Conference.

Last season, she averaged 19.4 points and 6.0 assists while leading the Warriors to the C Conference tournament championship. She also finished second on the team in rebounds, grabbing 6.0 a game.

"A lot of people ask me about her height," said Beth Tfiloh coach Sonya Howell. "I never even saw her height. I see 5-feet-8, 5-feet-9 guards who can't handle the ball as well as she does.

"She doesn't play like she's 4 feet 11; she plays above everyone else."

Bryn Mawr coach Jim "Snuffy" Smith said Hollander isn't effective only because she plays in the C Conference.

"She's the Muggsy Bogues of girls basketball," said Smith, comparing her to the 5-3 former Dunbar star who went on to Wake Forest and the NBA.

"She's a very, very good high school point guard. She has great ball skills, she can get open and she has a good feel for the game. She could help some A Conference teams. I'd love to have her."

Basketball has been Hollander's passion since the day she first realized girls had a basketball league of their own. As a third-grader, she went to one of her older brother Aaron's recreation games and saw the end of the preceding girls game.

"I was like, `I can play with them,' " said Hollander, who had only played softball before. "I enjoy basketball because it's 24/7 - action, moving, nonstop. That's what I needed."

She moved through the Pikesville recreation ranks to a travel team to the Tornadoes of the Amateur Athletic Union for two years.

"Her love for the game really drives her," said her father, Steven Hollander. "She knows the odds are against her. How many people do you see who are 5-foot who play basketball and excel in it?

"Because of the odds, she tries even harder, and everything so far has worked out."

In last year's C Conference tournament, Hollander averaged 21.6 points. She scored 18 in the 46-31 title victory over Catholic, and she poured in a season-high 29 in the semifinal against Garrison Forest.

Hollander has a good mid-range jump shot and can hit the three-pointer, but she excels at taking opponents off the dribble.

"To make herself effective, she has figured out a way to neutralize her opponents by doing things to get open," Smith said.

"She does a great job creating opportunities for herself. She has good hesitation and step-back moves that get her open to get her shot off. And that is countering her size."

In some ways, Hollander's size can be an advantage. Her proximity to the floor enhances her ball-handling skills and makes her a constant pest on defense. She averages 7.0 steals.

"Sometimes, I think if only I were 5 feet 6 - just 5 feet 6 - I could play for Maryland. I could play Division I," Hollander said, "but then I think, if I were taller, I might not be as quick and I might not have the skills I have."

Countless hours on her own have helped hone those skills. She also spends a lot of time watching college games on television, picking up ideas and enhancing her knowledge of the game.

She sees the court well and gets the ball to an open player in a flash. The only problem at Beth Tfiloh is that her passes can be a little too hot for her teammates to handle.

In a recent win over Oldfields, she spotted a teammate running the baseline and whipped the ball one-handed off the dribble down the lane. Her teammate never saw the ball coming, and it slammed off the wall.

Still, her teammates respect her skills and appreciate her desire to get them involved in the game.

"She's very smart, and she sees things sometimes that we don't see," said Warriors teammate Lauren Herwitz. "That just makes us better, because she shows us and we can pick up on it."

Hollander, a National Honor Society member with a 3.79 grade-point average, plans to continue playing in college. A few small programs have shown interest, but not as many as she had hoped.

Howell said the lack of interest likely stems from where she plays as much as from her size. Regardless, Howell, who played at Texas-El Paso, said Hollander can play college ball.

"If she was only good at one thing," Howell said, "I would say her height would give her some problems, but she's an all-around player. The kid is amazing the way she handles the ball."

In college, Hollander likely would play more of a true point-guard role and not be relied upon to score so much. That's fine with her.

"I just want to play," Hollander said. "You're supposed to feed the ball and when you're open, you shoot it. If you can make that shot, then you're a good point guard. I'll never understand why they say you have to be so tall."

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