February 28, 2021 

Mya Hollingshed, Colorado’s unsung heroine

Hollingshed is a double-double machine. Why doesn't she get more attention?

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Boulder, Colo. — Colorado Buffaloes forward Mya Hollingshed (21) drives against Arizona Wildcats guards Helena Pueyo (13) and Shaina Pellington (1) at CU Events Center on Dec. 18, 2020. Photo courtesy of Colorado Athletics.

When the Pac-12 released the preseason all-conference list, there was a rather conspicuous absence. Where was Colorado Buffaloes senior forward Mya Hollingshed?

The Pac-12 media had included players who weren’t even going to play, like Oregon State sophomore Kennedy Brown, who was going to spend the season recovering from surgery to repair her ACL. Why not the Buffs’ senior?

Despite her impressive array of skills, could it all come down to one thing?

“She’s hungry,” said Arizona head coach Adia Barnes. “When she plays really well her team can win a lot of games. She’s a very difficult matchup. She can shoot the three. She can face up and drive. She’s got good size. So she’s tough for a quick four because she’ll post you up. She’s tough for a taller five because she’s more versatile. She does a lot of rips-and-goes when she faces up. A very good player.

“I think she is underrated, but I think she’s kind of really come into her own the last couple of years. But I think also it goes to if Colorado has a lot more wins, I think she gets a lot more publicity. I think that’s unfortunately how it kind of goes with basketball.”

As Barnes noted, the Houston native has steadily improved her game since arriving in Boulder. By the time Pac-12 play rolled around her freshman season, Hollingshed was the third-leading scorer for Colorado while playing alongside Kennedy Leonard. She was shooting 45.5 percent — including a team-high 42.7 percent from 3-point range.

While Leonard would make the All Pac-12 team that year, it was just the first time Hollingshed would be overlooked for conference honors. She did not even make All-Freshman honorable mention for the 2017-18 season.

But the Buffs know what they have in their senior. This season, she is averaging career highs in points (16.7), rebounds (8.3), assists (1.7), blocks (1.3) and steals (1.3) per game.

“Mya doesn’t have much of an ego, so she’s not real concerned about who gets the most press or things like that,” said Colorado head coach JR Payne. “But, I mean, she leads the league in double-doubles.”

Payne made that comment after a 62-59 loss to then-No. 6 Arizona on Dec. 18, 2020. More than two months later, it’s still true.

Hollingshed has eight double-doubles in Colorado’s 19 games this season. Her closest rivals for the conference lead are Stanford’s Haley Jones and Oregon State’s Taylor Jones, both of whom have five games with double digits in points and rebounds.

In addition to her eight games with double digits in both categories, Hollingshed has scored at least 20 points four times this season. Only four Pac-12 players have accomplished the feat more times.

She also steps up in the big games.

Boulder, Colo. — Colorado’s Mya Hollingshed (21) shoots over Stanford’s Cameron Brink (22) at CU Events Center on Jan. 17, 2021. Photo by Dan Madden. Courtesy of Colorado Athletics.

In the biggest upset of the Pac-12 season, Hollingshed scored a career-high 32 points against then-No. 1 Stanford as her team defeated the league’s regular-season champions 77-72 in overtime in mid-January. She went 12-for-24 from the floor, including 4-for-10 from the 3-point line. She was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line and grabbed 10 rebounds. She also had an assist and five steals.

“I especially look to someone like Mya who has been here for four years and they haven’t been the easiest years,” Payne said after the victory over Stanford. “There’s been those close games that we thought we could have won and didn’t. We’ve talked about not being the team that just gets close, but actually finishing and making that happen.”

Making it happen took a classic demonstration of the versatility Hollingshed brings to the court. Stanford is not the only opponent who has experienced it.

Barnes compared Hollingshed’s versatility to that of Kevin Garnett, but also noted it is not just her game that has an effect on the court. She knows how to get in her opponent’s head.

“She’s very physical,” Barnes said. “She’s not afraid. She likes to talk. So I think she’s also intimidating for a lot of players.”

The Stanford game earned Hollingshed the only Pac-12 Player of the Week award of her career. While Payne doesn’t complain about the lack of honors for her senior star, she does believe that the lack of respect finds its way onto the court, particularly from the officials.

That has a much bigger impact.

“She deserves some of the looks that some of the all-stars in this conference are getting,” Payne said. “Late-game foul calls, different things. She’s as good as a lot of the top players in this conference and deserves that same type of respect.”

The Buffaloes are also looking for that respect as a team. They were picked to finish ninth in the league this season, but head into the final regularly-scheduled game of the season in fifth at 8-8 in conference play. Their .500 winning percentage is tied with 6-6 Oregon State, but they have completed more of their scheduled regular season games.

As of Feb. 26, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has Colorado in the “next four out” and the Beavers in the “last four in.” It is certainly debatable whether Oregon State has a better overall profile than the Buffaloes, but there’s the glaring fact that Colorado was swept by the team sitting just behind them in the conference standings. Those two wins against the Buffaloes are the Beavers’ two best wins this year.

It is possible that two teams sitting behind them in the Pac-12 standings will make the tournament while Colorado is on the outside looking in. Creme also has Washington State as one of the last four in.

If the Buffaloes want to jump over their conference foes and some of the other teams that appear to be ahead of them, it is going to take some work down the stretch. That starts with Utah on Sunday, then likely pits them against last-place California in the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday.

Hollingshed’s play will have a lot to say about whether the Buffaloes can get to the NCAA Tournament. If she can carry them there, it will be well past time for those outside the program to sit up and take notice.

Written by Kim Doss

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