Mya Hollingshed aims to impact Aces as rookie following standout career at Colorado

Colorado Buffaloes forward Mya Hollingshed.
Imagn/USA Today Sports

It might be her first week as a WNBA professional, but Mya Hollingshed isn’t giving herself any free passes just because she wrapped up her college career only four weeks ago.

“Trying to learn on the fly – that’s something that Coach Becky (Hammon) has been drilling into us – just trying to learn on the fly and get those plays down so, you know, we’re ready at any moment,” said Hollingshed, who was selected eighth overall by the Las Vegas Aces in the 2022 WNBA draft on April 11. “Just because we’re rookies doesn’t mean we can go in there and not be sharp.”

The 22-year-old Hollingshed, who hails from Houston, Tex., is one of five rookies currently on the Aces’ roster after recently finishing her five-year career at Colorado by leading the Buffaloes to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years. While they lost in the first round to Creighton, 84-74 on March 18, Hollingshed walked away as the Buffs’ all-time leader in games played (141) and finished sixth all-time in points (1,681), rebounds (911) and double-doubles (25).

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“We feel like Mya had a tremendous upside, a very high ceiling,” Aces’ first-year head coach Becky Hammon told media on Wednesday. “We love the way she shot the ball in college. … We feel like we have a good system in place for her to learn and definitely have an eye towards her development over the years, for sure, to make sure she gets to the spots and gets the work and the attention that she needs to be the type of player she wants to be and that we think she can be.”

Hammon, who played in the WNBA for 16 years, signed on with Las Vegas in December, and this season marks her first as head coach after spending the last eight years as an assistant for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. In 2014, Hammon became the first full-time female coach in NBA history, and that experience has rookie Hollingshed on the edge of her seat.

“Every day I’m looking towards what’s to come, what’s going to happen, what’s next,” said the 6-3 forward, who became the first CU player selected in the draft since Chucky Jeffery was picked in the second round (24th overall) by the Lynx in 2013. “Our heads were kind of spinning walking in Day 1, just because these are people you typically see on TV, and now you’re seeing them every day in practice and going at it with them in practice and building those relationships. Especially Becky Hammon, someone who’s been in the league. She’s seen things and also played. Just having her start out here as my first coach, I think I wouldn’t want to learn from anybody else right now but her.”

Hammon, a three-time All-American during her tenure at Colorado State from 1995-99, said the irony that her star rookie played for her biggest college rival is not lost on her.

“I told her when I met her, I had no hard feelings drafting a Buffalo,” said Hammon, who sees Hollingshed working as bigger small forward and also as a stretch power forward. “The big draw with her was obviously her size, her ability to step back and hits threes. We saw her fill a void in our four-man slot. We wanted to add some things to that position.”

Hollingshed arrives in Vegas as the only player in the Pac-12 last season to lead her team in scoring, rebounding and three-point shooting, and earlier this month she picked up her second consecutive Women’s Basketball Coaches Association honorable mention All-America honor. She had five 20-point games during her final season, posting a season-high of 28 against Utah on Jan. 30, and she led the Buffs in scoring 42 times in her career (13 times in 2021-22).

She credits that fifth season as giving her the extra time needed to develop her game, yet Hollingshed admits she was still surprised at how her move the pros unfolded.

“Just as the season kept rolling on, I was just taking it day by day and just shining through it; whatever happened, happened,” she said. “The way it happened has been the best way possible for me, I’d never would have imagined or thought it would happen that early on.”

The Aces, who finished last season with the second-best record in the WNBA at 24-8, open their season on May 6 against the Phoenix Mercury, with their home opener set for May 8 vs. Seattle.

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