NCAA Tournament berth caps college career for Gulfport's Hollimon

Troy guard Jeremy Hollimon helped the Trojans reach the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans face Duke on Friday night.
Troy guard Jeremy Hollimon helped the Trojans reach the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans face Duke on Friday night. Troy University

Jeremy Hollimon always dreamed of playing in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The Gulfport native gets his chance at 6:20 p.m. Friday night when Troy faces Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. TBS will televise the contest.

Hollimon is averaging 12 points a game for Troy, who reached the Field of 68 by winning the Sun Belt Conference tournament last week. He’s also made a team-leading 46 three-pointers.

“It’s a blessing to play in the NCAA Tournament,” Hollimon said. “I’ve waited my whole life for this. We made the Final Four my senior year at Gulfport. We reached the Region 23 championship my last year at Pearl River. To finally win the Sun Belt championship at Troy, it’s a great accomplishment.”

Troy coach Phil Cunningham considers Hollimon a key part of the Trojans’ postseason run.

“Jeremy Hollimon gets very little credit for what he has done for this team,” Cunningham said after Troy won the Sun Belt Conference tournament last week. “He comes off the bench, but he’s always in the game at the end of the game.”

Hollimon signed with Troy during the fall of 2014. He was redshirted during the 2014-15 season because of an injured knee.

For the 2015-16 season, Hollimon was one of the Trojans’ few bright spots. He averaged 10.3 points a game, but the Trojans finished last in the Sun Belt Conference.

But Troy (22-14) caught fire in the Sun Belt Tournament, earning the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2003. Hollimon scored 15 points as the Trojans beat Texas State 59-53 in the tournament finals.

Hollimon, who averaged 15 points as a sophomore at PRCC in 2013-14, believed the Trojans’ road to March Madness began in the off-season, especially for him.

“It was a lot of hard work,” Hollimon said. “I stayed after practice. I spent more time in the gym and worked on my shooting. That made me more ready to play.”

The former Sun Herald All-South Mississippi selection knows the Trojans are heavy underdogs against second-seeded Duke, the ACC Tournament champions. The Blue Devils (27-8) have won five national titles since 1991.

“We’re not scared of Duke,” Hollimon said. “We feel that we can play with them. Anything can happen in the NCAA Tournament.”

James Jones: 228-896-2320, @_jkjones