Ishmael Hollis has traveled the world playing basketball. And with each stop, he gains a new appreciation for a different style, a different pace of the game.
His latest stop: Luxembourg.
The Flowery Branch High graduate has marched up-and-down courts in England, Australia and Portugal as a professional player since his two-year stint with the University of North Georgia.
Hollis said the climate in Luxembourg is one he’s used to by now with the rain and the cold. One of the perks is being landlocked by Germany, France and Belgium.
“Having multiple countries bordering you is very nice,” Hollis said. “I’m five minutes from France. We go shopping in France because it’s cheaper. Germany is another 30 minutes and Belgium is right up the road. It’s pretty neat.”
As for basketball, the 24-year-old did a few workouts for NBA Development League teams, including the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Boston Celtics. Each of the teams showed interest in Hollis and all indications pointed to him being a second-round selection in the D-League draft on Oct. 30.
When his name wasn’t called, Hollis set his own future for the upcoming season.
“I waited until the D-League draft,” Hollis said. “I didn’t get assigned to anyone in training camp, so that made me a free agent with the NBA. I didn’t want to wait around for a call up, so I made the decision to play in Europe and one week later I was here playing.”
Hollis signed a deal with Basketball Club Bascharage (BBC Bascharage), a member of the Total League on Nov. 7. Two days later, he arrived in Luxembourg and had a practice as soon as he got off the plane.
The style of play in the U.S. is faster paced and geared toward scoring quickly and scoring a lot. The European style is more of a tactical game and being more selective in terms of shots and scoring opportunities. To go from the quick style to the slower, tactical style within a couple week’s time wasn’t easy.
“It was tough getting my mind adjusted to it, but I came in with the work ethic and it’s been going well so far,” Hollis said.
Hollis’ aim is still to get to the NBA, so he knows he has to keep pushing.
“This isn’t the highest stop I want to go to. I want to go further in my career,” Hollis said. “I treat it like I’m playing in the NBA so that, when I get to that point, I’ll be prepared for it.
“I put in a lot of hard work here because I know the NBA is interested in me, so everything I do here is important. I have to work hard and be more prepared (for NBA workouts) than I was last year, so that way I know I leave no doubt.”
Just three days of being with his new team, which was already six games into its season, Hollis was thrust into his first game in Luxembourg on Saturday. He didn’t skip a beat.
In his first game, Hollis scored 32 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had four steals. All of those were team-leading numbers.
“Next summer, if I keep on at the pace I’m going now, it’ll definitely help going into next summer to have a good résumé for what I’m doing this season,” Hollis said. “How I score and how the team does, they’ll take that into consideration.
They’ll choose a guy who can put up really good numbers and who can win.”
BBC Bascharage’s season will conclude in May if the squad makes the playoffs. Hollis hopes to be around that long to at least play in the Total League’s All-Star game, if not playing for a league title. From there, he’ll continue to chase his goal of making it to the NBA.
Having already been on a long journey to get to “The League,” Hollis is dedicated to taking whatever path necessary to make his dream a reality — even if it means going back overseas.
“If I have to come back over here and play overseas again, I’ll do it. I definitely want to play in the NBA,” Hollis said. “It’s not easy. You have to be mentally tough. If you want something that badly and you have a dream, it’s hard for somebody to stop you.”