Price Is Right Having recovered from a terrible triceps injury, perpetually positive Hollis Price has Oklahoma soaring

January 21, 2002

Oklahoma men's basketball trainer Alex Brown calls Hollis Price
by the nickname Biggie, and not just because Price, a slight,
6'1" junior shooting guard, looks like a tall 12-year-old and
likes the music of the late rapper Biggie Smalls. "Hollis is a
big-time player," says Brown. "He's not a big, strong kid, but
mentally he's as tough as they come."

Consider what Price went through last season. After playing much
of the year with a groin pull, he nearly severed the ulnar nerve
in his right (shooting) arm when he collided with Indiana
State's Kelyn Block during the Sooners' 70-68 first-round NCAA
tournament loss. The resulting triceps tendon tear required
three operations--including one to remove a piece of one of
Block's teeth--and four months to heal, but, says Price, "it
made me a better shooter because it made me focus more." Early
this season he missed a game after he was poked in the eye
during practice, but he found a bright side in that experience
too. "Anytime I sit on the bench, I find myself coaching, and
that's what I'd like to do eventually," he says. "There's always
something to learn from the sideline."

Aside from the occasional freak injury, the perpetually positive
Price doesn't spend much time riding the pine. Although his
right arm still gets so stiff that he has to warm up for at
least 30 minutes before he can play, he was shooting 52.6% from
the field and 45.8% from three-point range through Sunday, for a
team-leading 17.5 points a game--all career highs. Price scored
27 points, hitting six of seven three-pointers last Saturday to
lead the fifth-ranked Sooners (13-1) to a 98-72 victory over
Texas Tech.

"You know how you blow up a balloon and then let the air out,
and it flies all over the place?" says Oklahoma coach Kelvin
Sampson. "That's Hollis on the court. If he isn't leading us in
scoring, he's doing a lot of other things to help us win. There
isn't a single thing he's not good at."

Price found salvation in sports at an early age while growing up
in the tough Desire housing development in New Orleans. His
maternal grandparents raised him while his mother struggled with
a drug problem and was in and out of jail. Price's father, a
former Grambling quarterback, and mother were never married. "A
lot of my friends did bad things to get the material things they
wanted," says Price, "but I was lucky to have a grandfather who
talked to me every day after school about wrongs and rights.
That's what kept me straight." (Price and his mother, who is now
out of jail and off drugs, talk regularly and spend holidays
together.)

After leading St. Augustine High to a Class 5A state
championship and his AAU team in Shreveport--a four-hour bus
ride away--to a national title, Price considered signing with
Texas. He chose Oklahoma because he wanted to play with
All-America forward Eduardo Najera, who's in his second year
with the Dallas Mavericks. "Eduardo showed me how to be a leader
and what playing with heart was all about," says Price. "I
attribute a lot of my hard play to him."

Giving credit where it's due is another category in which Price
comes up big. After eating a pregame meal or receiving a new
pair of sneakers, he always thanks the coaching staff. "Hollis
never takes anything for granted," says senior guard Michael
Cano. "He's arguably the best player on the team, yet he claps
the hardest and cheers the loudest for others."

Adds Sampson, "He's the kind of player you don't get to coach
often. When senior night comes next year, I know I'm going to
cry to see him go. The kid is all heart."

COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL After three operations on his arm Price needs electric stimulation before he takes the court.
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)