Started from the bottom now she's here: Holloway seeking to make imprint on this year's team

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Rebecca Noble | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona women's basketball guard Charise Holloway (44) tries to block UAB forward Brittany Winborne's (15) shot during Arizona's 49-44 win in McKale Center on Dec. 14, 2014. Holloway returned to the Wildcats after sitting out last season.

Charise Holloway was one of the better players on the 2014-15 Arizona women’s basketball team, then it all came to a stop.

She fell into a pit of personal issues that restrained her from the game she loved. She gained 40 pounds and could be seen in the darkness of the upper deck during home basketball games. To know her then, is to really not know her at all.

“I was going through a lot last year,” said junior Holloway. “I took a leave of absence for a year to get it all back together, it was rough.”

It would be easy to place the blame on former head coach Niya Butts for the environment that was seemingly created, but Holloway says that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Coach Butts was extremely supportive, she supported me and my decision 100 percent. She was the one that gave me the option to sit out and still allow me to be a part of the team, to allow me to get right,” Holloway said.

Since last season things have improved for the junior from Tracy, California. For starters head coach Adia Barnes has taken over the program and given everyone a fresh start. Holloway is excited and refocused for the new beginning.

Related: Adia Barnes ready for the rebuild

As a freshman, Holloway averaged 6.6 points and 3.2 rebounds including a career high of 20 points against Washington State and a near double-double against Wake Forest with eight points and nine rebounds. Down the stretch of the season, Holloway improved and became a key member for Arizona. She will look to resume her place and contribute mightily for a team looking to redeem itself this season.

"I am just so excited for the season, I really am," Holloway said. "The environment here is amazing, it is truly a family atmosphere. We do so many more things off the court together and it has helped me so much."

Holloway credits Barnes for coming in and not judging people on what she heard but rather what she sees.

"One of the first things she said was that she didn't care about what happened in the past and everyone has a clean slate," Holloway said. "Knowing that you have a fresh start despite whatever has happened in the past is good. I really thought when she came in everyone felt renewed, it was great."

Coach Barnes commended Holloway's hard work on and off the court.

"You hear about her not being apart of the team and have concerns," said head coach Adia Barnes. "But she has been great for me and that has been pleasant to see. It's hard because sometimes you have to learn the hard way. When you have something you love taken away you learn. She has shown tremendous leadership and always comes in with so much energy, which surprised me but has been great to see."

Off the court Holloway has had some help. Her parents moved to Tucson from California to be closer to their daughter. They attend practice and visit with the team and coaching staff. Though Holloway says she thought it may be difficult she was surprised when it was better than she imagined.

"I thought they may want me to be around all the time, don't get me wrong I love my parents very much, but I didn't know if they would allow me the freedom I wanted," Holloway said. "They have been amazing, they have allowed me to be who I am and enjoy the things I want to do without being overbearing. I am so blessed to have them by my side."

Holloway will be looked on to contribute for a team picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12. The Wildcats have not had a winning season since the 2010-11 season when they went 21-12. That is a long time to experience futility and Holloway acknowledges that her contributions to the team are what is going to stem the tide until everyone understands and molds into what coach Barnes wants.

"I'm a junior now, so I need to step up and do what I was recruited to do now," Holloway said. "Our team chemistry is so much better on the court compared to last year and I just want to continue that into the season."

Part of Holloway's transformation over the past year was of a physical nature. She shed 20 of the 40 pounds she put on last season and continues to shed weight daily. In addition, she is more focused in the weight room and has taken food nutrition more seriously in an effort to maximize her potential.

"It has been really intense," Holloway said. "I workout just about everyday and do cardio after every practice to get in better shape. I watch what I eat, I lift more intently so I don't waste time and put in the work. It is working out really well."

She has put in a ton of work physically, spiritually and emotionally. She says she is in a better place now and ready to enjoy the season. If you met her now, it is undeniable that she has an infectious attitude that lights up a room. It may not have been the previous coaching staff that hurt her ability to be apart of the team, but there is no denying the new environment has enabled Holloway to find herself again and get back to doing what she loves, being with her extended family both on and off the court.

Holloway and the Wildcats first regular season game will be Sunday, Nov. 13, against Alcorn State at 2 p.m.


Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.



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