Holloway gets support after shootout, leads team to NCAA tournament

Call from Ray Lewis helped Tu bounce back

CINCINNATI - Tu Holloway remembers that he was just sitting around in his apartment when his phone rang.  He was watching ESPN, so he ignored it.

Later he checked his voicemail, something he says he doesn't do diligently.  That's when he realized that he had missed two calls from Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. 

"It shocked me," Holloway told reporters Monday.

He returned the call to Lewis who was calling to give Holloway support during a turbulent time in an otherwise spectacular Xavier career.

Tu, once known as Terrell Holloway, had enjoyed great success with the Musketeers. He decided to stick around for his senior season instead of attempting a jump to the NBA. He was touted as a possible college basketball Player of the Year.  When the season began with a string of victories, it looked like it might be an unforgettable final lap on Victory Parkway.

All that changed on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011, at the Cintas Center. That's when the Musketeers and UC Bearcats didn't just shoot it out, but they fought it out at the end of the game.

He wasn't identified as one of the on-the-court assailants, but his comments in the postgame news conference were just as damaging.  He said that Xavier had a "bunch of gangsters" in the locker room. He said that the Musketeers had "zipped up" the Bearcats, implying that they were carried out in body bags. 

They  were comments that were repeated many times in the week that followed. It seemed inconceivable that a Xavier kid was talking about gangsters and body bags.  The school apologized. Holloway apologized. Then the tough part started.

He was suspended and then Xavier started to lose. When the suspended players returned, their play was disjointed and inconsistent. Because Holloway was the biggest star, he carried the biggest burden.

As the season ground on, he realized that Xavier's uneven play might keep it out of the NCAA tournament. It's not the way he wanted to exit.

"No matter what I did in my first three years, I felt like they would just remember me for not being able to lead my team to the NCAA tournament," Holloway said.

It started to eat away at his confidence.

"It bothered me a lot" he said. "It was tough just thinking about it every game, after losses or bad practices."

That's when he got the call from Ray Lewis, the Ravens All-Pro linebacker.

"He's a spiritual guy and I like to go to church also," said Holloway. Lewis told him "keep God first, have faith."

Holloway said it came at a time when he really needed the support.  He also got a call from Jay Williams who he described as the "best college basketball player I've ever seen."

Certainly social media provided a flurry of critical comments along the way, about the way he had handled the brawl post game news conference and how he was playing.  But he says he also got many letters from Xavier fans and  notes of support on his Facebook account that have been very helpful.

The response has helped him get over the hump, and has helped the Musketeers to their 11th NCAA tournament appearance in the last 12 seasons.

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