Growing Up ... Ryan Hollins

They’ve always had talent, but what were the Cavaliers like before they became rich and gigantic and famous?

One of the newest Cavaliers, Ryan Hollins, is a So-Cal native – playing his ball in his hometown Pasadena and later at UCLA. Acquired in the offseason from Minnesota, the former Bruin has started all but one of the Cavaliers preseason contests – and has been solid in each.

In today’s Growing Up, the Wine and Gold’s singular seven-footer talks about his track career, his NBA idols and, of course, his first dunk …

I was always … the tallest in my class. But from the beginning of my freshman year to the end of my sophomore year in high school, I went from 6-2 to 6-7.

Actually … I didn’t make the team my freshman year. Jordan just got cut from varsity. I didn’t even get to play – period!

That was definitely motivation … because I knew basketball was something that I really wanted to do.

By the time I made the team … I had grown a little bit. Then, I took everything seriously and stayed focused. No games. No playing around.

I went to high school … at John Muir in Pasadena.

My best coach growing up … was my high school coach. Just in a sense that it was an important stage in my life to build toughness and learn the ethics of the game that last in situations even today. Not to quit, to play hard. Respect yourself and others on the court and off. Just simple things like that go a long way.

Our team … was good. But nothing outrageous. We made it to the state semifinals my junior year.

All of our guys … could walk to school. There was no recruiting. We just got in the gym and played hard.

I have an older … sister. She didn’t play anything.

My only other sport in high school was … track. After senior season in hoops, your year is over. And you’re looking around, like, ‘What do I do?’

And I had a buddy … who was doing high jump and we talked mess back and forth and I said ‘I could do that.’ And one thing led to another and I wound up getting third in state. So it was kind of a cool experience and kind of a good way to kill time. It was something good beside basketball to put my effort into, but …

Basketball was something that … I always wanted to do. I liked to go out and play every sport. But watching TV back then, the NBA – Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett. Players like that, growing up. You watched them, and you know what you wanted to do.

From a young age … I set out a goal to start varsity at John Muir High School. I wanted to go UCLA. And I wanted to make it to the NBA.

Things didn’t always go as planned … because I signed with St. Louis out of high school. But I got cut my first year. And I wasn’t on the NBA radar until UCLA went to the championship game. So it just goes to show that if you stick with your goals and dreams, you really can achieve anything. Always believe in yourself.

My dad is … my hero. No question about that. As a kid you feel like your dad can do anything. He’s the strongest, the tallest. There’s nothing he can’t do. And he taught me the morals and the values that made me who I am today.

The first time I dunked … I was in the backyard and I actually brought the rim down. I had some running shoes on and I just got a good dunk in. And you couldn’t tell me nothin’ after that!

I was probably about … 13, just playing around with my friends in the back yard. But the game was pretty much over after that.