It has been a tough start to the Qualifying Round of EuroLeague Women for Teo Vilnius but in Quanitra Hollingsworth, the Lithuanian club have one of the stand-out rookie players to date.
Having left College earlier this year to go straight into the WNBA with Minnesota Lynx, the center spent the summer trying to establish herself in the professional game and living up to her lofty reputation.
While it wasn't all plain sailing at the Lynx, as might well be expected with any young player, Hollingsworth still showed enough promise to be identified as a potential threat in EuroLeague Women and was snapped up by the Lithuanian champions.
In the first month of the season she hasn't wasted any time underlining her huge potential by opening her account among the European elite with a couple of impressive double-doubles. Having made a big splash in the competition in recent weeks, Hollingsworth also had one more reason to celebrate last weekend as we caught up with the rising star to wish her a very Happy 21st Birthday and talk about life on and off the court in Lithuania.
FIBA Europe: When you signed your first pro-contract overseas what were your feelings? You must have had a real mixture of contrasting emotions both basketball wise and also in terms of the off-court stuff?
Quanitra Hollingsworth:There were no mixed emotions here! I was ecstatic about coming overseas. I was so eager to embark on a new culture, learn a new language, and dominate in another country! A lot of people thought I was crazy when I said I was not nervous. And, yet so far, my initial feelings have been validated because I have enjoyed every minute of being here in Lithuania.
FIBA Europe: What is the impact of having your Minnesota Lynx team-mate Renee Montgomery in Vilnius? That must really help you both on and off the court as maybe it would have been much more of a daunting prospect without her alongside you?
Quanitra Hollingsworth: It is definitely a blessing to have a familiar face here to share this rookie overseas experience with! On the court we are honest with one another and push each other to get better everyday. It is easy to become "stagnant" and still dominate when playing overseas; however, Renee and I hold each other accountable to work on those things that limit our games. As far as off the court, Renee is very outgoing (something that I am not); so, I am able to relax and enjoy myself with other players and in different places with her around!
FIBA Europe : Not many people get a double-double in EuroLeague Women on their debut. It must have been a little bitter-sweet because you lost but you played well and were up against some pretty big names who you will have known well?
Quanitra Hollingsworth: My focus is not on getting a double-double because that is something a dominating post player should get every game. Nonetheless, I was disappointed with our team's performance as a whole. To be honest I wasn't entirely satisfied with my personal performance either! There is a lot more that goes into having a good game than just points and rebounds.
FIBA Europe : A lot of people have talked about your impact at VCU not just in terms of your personal performance but also the positive affect you had on the entire programme during your time there. Tell us about your journey through College as you had a lot on your shoulders. Did you achieve everything you wanted to and what is your legacy?
Quanitra Hollingsworth: My journey through college was one that included a lot of growing as a person, as well as an athlete. I went to college at the age of 15 and left at the age of 20. So basically, I grew up on that campus! The entire journey for both myself and the program was an uphill one - nothing was given to us. We had to earn everything. I came in and our team was not even a 500 team, but when I left our team was a contender for a CAA championship and so much more!
My goal was to help build a dominant program and be a part of something special. I felt that I accomplished all of the things that I set out to. It was difficult at times to stay focused on the big picture, because with all the "hype" you still have to remain humble and selfless.
As far as achieving everything that I wanted to on the court, I can honestly say no; however, I will never take what I did accomplish for granted. I had set some big goals for myself and I reached most of them but I did fall short of reaching some, too... I don't know what my legacy is at VCU, but I can only hope that it is composited of all the positive contributions that I made to the people I encountered, the teammates I played with, the coaches I played under, and the school I represented for five years.
My journey was less about me and more about those around me (and this approach allowed me to accomplish so much along the way). Go VCU Rams!
FIBA Europe : Tell us about your first day in the WNBA at Minnesota. You probably had a lot of ups and downs in terms of the expectation that you were probably realistically never going to live up to?
Quanitra Hollingsworth: My first day(s) in Minnesota were somewhat nerve-wrecking because I felt I had to do so much to prove that I belonged. However, the coaches made it very evident that they had so much confidence in me, so that took away some stress. I think I set my individual expectations very high for myself, and it was very emotional at times when I was not living up those. In many people's eyes my rookie season was average; however, I will never be remotely satisfied with my rookie performance. Nonetheless, I would not trade it because I learned so much and built so many new relationships while I was there.
FIBA Europe : In College you were one of the main talents on the team, in the WNBA you were the rookie player and now at Vilnius do you maybe fall somewhere between the two in terms of your role and potential influence on the team? How has the Coach set you up and what type of basketball will TEO play this year?
Quanitra Hollingsworth: The College role and the WNBA role differed in many aspects, especially my immediate influence on the team. I feel my role here in Vilnius would be more similar to that which I had in college. I feel I will be a definite leader on this team once I am acclimatised to their style of play. TEO is a very team oriented program; it is not about individual players, but about everyone as a whole. Our coach focuses on making us all better players (for the future) while giving us the tools to be a great contending team (for this season).
FIBA Europe : You have always been the youngest in pretty much anything you have done and things have come quickly to you in a relatively successful start to your career. What have been the keys to your success in terms of your approach, who you listen to and how you have reacted to the successes and challenges so far?
Quanitra Hollingsworth: All of my success so far in life has come as direct blessings from God. I realize the favour I have with Him, and I don't allow my self to get in His way for the plan for my life/career. I never allowed myself to be hindered by my age because age has no defining essence in who I am, what I know, and where I can go! I learn from all the many people around me (i.e. their mistakes, their successes, their words of wisdom, and their words of ignorance). The most important person I listen to in the long run is myself; I always stay true to my self, to my beliefs, and to my own aspirations. Everything that I had done in my life so far does not make me any more special than anyone else. I am just another living testament of God's Favour!
FIBA Europe : When it comes to statistics we hear you analyse it a bit more closely than others because you quite like maths and computers? Or is that just a cover story as you have a lot more wild and guilty pleasures that you have managed to keep secret but can tell us now?
Quanitra Hollingsworth: (Laughing) I do really enjoy mathematics and computers! I don't think there are any "guilty pleasures" that I have kept secret (or, at least not any that I am yet willing to reveal)!
The one song that you never get tired of listening to is:
"Candy Rain" by Soul For Real
The other sports and sports teams that you like to follow are:
NFL Minnesota Vikings, NBA Orlando Magic and a little professional tennis here and there!
Your favourite five are:
Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley, Rebecca Lobo (I have a soft spot for post players, obviously)
Do you remember the moment you got your first new pair of basketball shoes?
The earliest pair of sneakers that I remember that I got (to actually play basketball in) were Nike Air Jordan Retro XIV!