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Home for the Holidays: Flowery Branch's Ishmael Hollis
Flowery Branch grad Ishmael Hollis is thriving in his first season at North Georgia. - photo by For The Times

One of the greatest skills Ishmael Hollis has picked up is his networking ability. Hollis, a Flowery Branch High graduate, has been a constant ambassador for the North Georgia College & State University basketball program, where he currently leads the team with 19 points and six rebounds per game.

He also has found that selling himself and portraying a confident image is his best bet to working in his future field as a TV meteorologist after graduating with a marketing degree in 2014.

Hollis says his support system is led by his mother, Penny Hollis, and godparents Robert and Angie Alfonso. After spending the first two years of his college career playing at Western Carolina University, he says it’s great to be so close to home playing with the Saints, in what he calls the best conference for Division-II college basketball.

“I’m playing better now that I’m playing here at North Georgia, and really enjoy it a lot,” Hollis said. “Seeing all the familiar faces really encourages me.”

Recently, Hollis played a part in landing the signing of Gainesville High Shaquan Cantrell by showing him around campus and answering any questions he had about the school, which will change its name officially to the University of North Georgia on Jan. 1.

He also found it interesting that Cantrell had also been courted by Western Carolina University, a school Hollis said he left simply to find a better fit.

“I told Shaquan that according to USA Today, Western Carolina is the 37th best university in the country and North Georgia is 53rd,” Hollis said. “And if he came to North Georgia he’d have the best opportunity to win championships in a great conference.

“He asked me lots of questions while he was here, which was great because a lot of guys don’t say much, and he took my advice.”

Hollis is also excited about the addition of North Hall senior Ebo Smith signing with North Georgia. He knows that Smith will be well prepared for the Division-II level playing in the Trojans system run by coach Benjie Wood.

Hollis has been a major part of North Georgia’s program this season. He felt the best game so far this season was when he had 23 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots to open up Peach Belt Conference play against Armstrong Atlantic State University with a 92-90 win on Dec. 15 in Savannah.

Hollis’ season high was 28 points and 16 rebounds against Newberry College in November.

The former Flowery Branch standout started looking at other schools after securing his release from his scholarship at Western Carolina last spring. At first he wasn’t interested in North Georgia, so he took at visit to West Florida University.

However, the pull of family and chance to win at the Division-II level won him over, so he made the move just 30 minutes from home to Dahlonega.

“What I like most is that North Georgia is one of the best schools academically in the state,” Hollis said. “You can only dribble a basketball for so long.”

And as excited as Hollis gets about basketball, two other subjects are much more important in his eyes. First, his hearing-impaired mother is pursuing her college degree in social work and will graduate at the same time from Gainesville State College, which will merge with North Georgia College & State University in the new year.

“She’s the person that really inspires me,” Hollis said.

Then life as a future meteorologist is a path Hollis always knew he wanted to take. Hollis says he’s always been fascinated by the wild swings in weather patterns and temperatures that come with living in Georgia. And he learned early that getting into the field is just as much who you know as what you know.

When he was a student at Western Carolina University, Hollis enjoyed a studio tour and made connections in the field at one of the stations in Charlotte, N.C., the nearest major market to the campus in Cullowhee, N.C. Another connection is through North Georgia basketball teammate Travis Core, whose father is a TV meteorologist at the CBS affiliate in nearby Chattanooga, Tenn.

After graduating, Hollis plans to pursue necessary certification to work as a weather man.

“I’ve just always loved to hear weather updates and want to be able to provide accurate, up-to-date information,” Hollis said. “I’d love to be able to work in front of the camera.”

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