Freshman hoops: a mother’s perspective

Nolana Holloway
Photo by Charles Hallman

Sports Odds & Ends

Niamya Holloway chose the University of Minnesota over schools such as Howard, Marquette, Northwestern, and South Dakota for continuing her academic and basketball career.  The Eden Prairie native is a member of the Gophers’ much-heralded and highly ranked 2022 freshman class, a two-time Minnesota high school state champion in track, and a four-time all-conference honoree and two-time All-State in basketball.  

Unfortunately, Holloway’s college-playing career has been delayed for at least a year due to a season-ending injury—an ACL tear—suffered before the season. As a result, the 6-foot freshman is putting in extra work in the classroom during her rehab and recovery.

“Academics is extremely high in our family,” Nolana Holloway, Niamya’s mother, told the MSR. “She’s actually a sophomore in credits, and this injury has allowed her to take on more credit [hours] than she normally would have. She had a really tough schedule [her first semester in college].”

According to her mother, Niamya being busy isn’t something new but actually a natural part of her personality.  She was a co-founder of the Black Student Union at Eden Prairie High School. She provided youth leadership at Central Middle School and as a senior officer for the Dare 2 Be Real organization, where she helps promote racial equity.

“She’s doing what she loves,” continued Nolana. Along with her husband, she said, “We’ve always tried to make sure that our children [Niamya is the second of four children] had academics, athletics and arts. That was important. You had to be well-rounded. And it’s a blessing to be able to see that.

“She’s the type of player, the type of person that she schedules everything out,” said her mother. “She’s realizing that there’s some things you just can’t [schedule].”

Selecting U of M, the state’s largest predominantly White institution (PWI), was important for Niamya for a number of reasons.

“Growing up in Minnesota,” said Nolana, “you don’t get a chance to see Black and Brown girls at this type of level.” Niamya is one of five sistahs on this year’s Gopher squad. “So to be able to see on the court Black and Brown girls [and] in the stands…that’s something [Niamya] didn’t really have as a child growing up.”

The Gopher women’s program hasn’t historically had a lot of Black players, especially local talent. Holloway and Amaya Battle [Hopkins] are one-half of the four in-state first-year players.

“That was one thing that was really big for her that she wanted to change,” said Nolana on Niamya’s choice to stay home and play for Minnesota. “She has a younger sister [Maleah] and she wanted other girls to be able to see Black and Brown girls can stay home and still play top [college] ball.”

However, not being able to play with Battle and her other teammates this season was expectedly tough on Niamya, admitted her mother. “I honestly believe the first couple of games were really tough because she’s never really had an injury. So, for her to have an injury of this magnitude was tough. 

“But I really feel like she’s finding her role on this team. Nolana says that her daughter’s recovery and rehab is right on schedule, and Niamya hopes to begin some basketball-related activities in February.  

“She’s a natural leader,” added Nolana. “Mentally she’s taking care of herself. She gets to see family, and so that really helps in the recovery.”

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