Heading into next season, one filled with hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth, it appeared that the only shoes the Michigan women’s basketball team would have to fill were the massive sneakers of 6-foot-6 center Krista Phillips.
But when freshman guard Dayeesha Hollins announced that she was leaving the team this past week to play closer to her hometown in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Wolverines are left with another massive void to fill.
Hollins started in 34 of 35 games in her first year with the Wolverines — with the lone exception being on Senior Night in the team’s final regular-season game of the year against Purdue.
Michigan’s third-leading scorer, averaging 12 points per game and leading the team in assists with just over three per game, cited personal reasons and a desire to near home as the primary motivating factor in leaving the program.
“I have always been very close to my family, and I learned that I still need their support on a daily basis,” Hollins said in a statement released today through the Athletic Department. “It was hard for my mom to travel constantly to see me and be there for me and I feel it’s best for me to try and get closer to home.”
To date, Hollins has yet to determine exactly where she will continue her playing career.
But as a freshman, Hollins dazzled the crowd in Crisler Arena with a rare combination of athleticism, hustle and a knack to make the fantastic play, whether it was a double-clutch layup off the glass in traffic or diving into the first row to save a loose ball as it rolled out of bounds.
“It has been an extremely difficult process for me in coming to the decision to leave the University of Michigan,” Hollins said. “The commitment that I made to the team and the University weighed heavily on me. I have also made some wonderful friends and enjoyed my time on the beautiful campus.”
Junior Courtney Boylan is the leading candidate to take over for Hollins as the point guard next season, since she was Hollins’ primary backup last year and the only other true point guard on that roster.
Senior Veronica Hicks, coming off her breakout campaign from a year ago, could also be expected to handle some duties as the primary ball handler.
In just a single year, Hollins helped leave her mark on the program.
Picked to finish last in the preseason, the Wolverines fought through their schedule and ended up with 21 wins, good for second highest in program history and made it all the way to the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, the furthest the program has ever been in the postseason.
But Hollins may be best remembered for her performance at then-No. 8 Xavier on Dec. 14, a team that made it all the way to the NCAA Final Four before eventually losing to the eventual NCAA runner-up Stanford.
Hollins returned to her hometown of Cincinatti and put up a game-high 22 points on Xavier in what could be considered the Wolverines’ biggest win of the year.
The Cintas Center was filled with Hollins’s supporters that night — but not everyone was supportive of her decision to choose Michigan.
“She’s from our town, how is she not on our team?” one Xavier fan yelled from the stands, as Hollins made miraculous play after miraculous play in the Wolverines’ upset win.
And now with Michigan left to fill that void, fans of Hollins in Cincinnati could see Hollins much closer to home next season.