When it comes to the basketball life few things are certain. But one thing is for certain with Ryan Hollins, he loves his family, the game, and the life he has been so fortunate to live. In this exclusive sit down with our own Ric Bucher, Ryan shares more inspiring and honest stories about moving his family to Italy; all for the love of the game.
…you’re not allowed to meet guests at baggage claim in the Turin airport…the security guards walk around with assault rifles.
It appears your family has joined you in Italy. When did that happen? How?
Since my exit of Gran Canaria and arrival at Auxilium Torino, a family plan had to be put into action. Janice and I had the blessing of a new job and yet, a huge challenge in front of us with Eve not being able to fly and Lauren and Chris still in school. These are the type of moments where, as a parent, you put your feelings aside and do what is best for your children. Even if we wanted to leave right away with Eve we couldn’t because we had to get her a passport. With her being only a few weeks’ old, we also felt it was best for her to mature more before being whisked off to another country. Lauren and Chris had already left schools that they loved and had to start over in another country…So talk about a first day. We decided that Janice and the kids would come to Italy closer to playoff time to smooth the transition.
What was it like seeing your newborn daughter again?
Being away from the family is something that never gets easy but, being away from Eve in the first days of her life was killing me. Knowing that Janice still needed me, and Eve was changing by the hour, had taken a piece of my soul. To add to the suspense, you’re not allowed to meet guests at baggage claim in the Turin airport; not to mention that the security guards walk around with assault rifles. There was no way that Janice would be able to get 9 suitcases to the car by herself. So, of course, I snuck past the security doors to greet them. I couldn’t have been happier to see my family; I had the same walk that Will Smith had at the end of “The Pursuit of Happyness,” LOL.
How does having your family with you impact your routine? Your frame of mind playing?
Early on in my career it was hard to mix family and game preparation. Since high school this was a task that I’d always taken on as my own, so when it came to family I’d require my quiet time on game days. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to thrive amongst the chaos.
Update us on what your team did this season — highlights, low-lights.
Even though our team improved, we missed the playoffs this season; making them would have been a first in franchise history. Injuries to Chris Wright, our starting PG, and Deron Washington, the reigning DOP, was too much to overcome. My first game we came out with a flurry — it was Lob City Torino. Well, just like any other league, teams watched film and soon realized Pepe Giuseppe was the only true PG left on the roster. The rest of the season Pepe experienced full-court denials, multiple defenders, and game plans devoted to tiring him out.
Your most memorable moment from the season?
The Torino gym is nice and tight so it gives our fans an intimate look at the games. You can imagine we took full advantage of the environment, from the beating of the drums to the limitless chants. My first game the fans pretty much rushed the floor and on my way out I had a priceless exchange as we circled the fan section to thank them for the welcome they gave me. I was emotionally still a wreck at the time and feeling the anxiety of my uncle’s funeral and having to start over. The fans had no idea what those cheers meant to me at the time. I joked with my brother Horace Wormely that, to a hooper, this was the equivalent of a rockstar crowd-surfing after playing a hit song.
What has been the best part about living in Italy? Any first-time experiences, both good and bad?
Honestly, the worst part about Italy was being separated from my family in a time that I really needed them and they needed me. My voice of reason was now gone; I couldn’t call Uncle Gary for a word of wisdom for emotional balance. This left me with a lot of reflecting to do. There’s nothing easy about life but when faced with lemons you make lemonade. Still haunted by the choice of going to the funeral and bearing the burden of leaving the family really proved to be a strain, but it wasn’t a time to stray from my values. Looking back now, I still would have left for the funeral and I’d still have gone to Torino. My job as a provider doesn’t remove itself simply due to circumstances.
Once my family arrived, even though we weren’t in the best of circumstances, we were together and that’s all that mattered. I believe that no matter where we might be, the top priority for a family is staying together as best you can; we are all we have.
Even though Eve was still only a few weeks’ old and Lauren and Chris were at the age that had them bouncing off the walls, I had a chance to show my family not just one amazing country but two. Janice and I agreed that after the season we’d check out what Italy had to offer. We decided to take a train to Rome and Venice and take full advantage of our time in Italy. For all those who have take a train through Europe, I know this wasn’t ideal to do with two small children and an infant strapped to our hips. Nonetheless, we embraced the challenge and figured these were experiences that our children would never forget and would appreciate later in life.
I had never taken a train through Europe; I now realize these are the kind of trips where you only pack what you would like to carry. Ideally, you throw everything in a large backpack rather then a large suitcase. I know that now. As we toured around, Eve, who had grown 2 inches and several pounds, felt like more of a weighted vest than the feathery newborn that we had once known. I think I broke up more fights than Mills Lane (boxing referee) between Lauren and Chris. I had now become the parent I loved to hate: the one that stops everywhere to get a photo. Of course, I had to be in all of my own photos, which meant asking the right person in the right language to take the perfect photo. More often than not, it took some time. As you can imagine, some people were more compliant then others.
How has your experience impacted your thoughts about playing overseas in the future?
If presented the chance I’d advise everyone to travel the world. Life is too short not to experience what’s out there. I now have a different perspective on things that I once thought that I need and don’t need. I appreciate the freedoms and opportunities that I have been blessed with. Hopefully, my children take many lessons from this experience. As my career moves forward I’m not sure what’s next, but I’m ever thankful and ready for the next opportunity.