Sonni Holland is breathing easier, so the same can be said for George Washington's basketball coach, Mike Jarvis.

Holland, a 6-foot-7, 205-pound sophomore, was the Colonials' leading scorer until he was hit by a flu bug 10 days ago. Since then, he has managed a total of only 14 points in three abbreviated appearances.

After the second of the three subpar games, last Saturday against Rhode Island, Holland wound up in the hospital. But four hours of tests that included an EKG and a chest X-ray disclosed nothing worse than a case of flu.

"During the games it was hard to catch my breath," Holland said. "My bronchial tubes were clogged up and I felt weak. It was really tough trying to play. Now I'm a lot better than I was."

Earlier in the season, Holland missed four games because of a bone chip in his left ankle. Then he aggravated it in practice. Despite an inability to make sharp cuts, Holland played the next day against Massachusetts and scored 26 points as the Colonials won, 61-59.

Holland hit a career high of 28 points three nights later against West Virginia and appeared to be headed for all-Atlantic 10 Conference honors until the flu chopped into his average. Despite Holland's problems, George Washington has continued to win and with a 15-8 record already is assured of its first above-.500 record since 1983-84.

"The statistics don't matter, as long as we keep winning," Holland said. "I'm not out to break any scoring records. I'm out to help GW win games. We've had players sit out crucial games, not just me, and other players have been able to pick up for them."

Jarvis knows, however, that the Colonials cannot go very far in the upcoming Atlantic 10 Tournament without a healthy Holland, so he was relieved to see Holland go through a lengthy practice without apparent difficulty.

"Sonni is very important to our team," Jarvis said. "Without him, we have no legitimate inside scoring threat. That's a lot of pressure for a 6-7 guy, but we have to do it.

"We've been winning, but I don't know if we could beat a real good team without him. Knowing he'd be coming back made it easier for other guys to reach down. Psychologically, they played harder. But it's different if you know somebody won't be back."

Holland, a graduate of Neptune High School in Asbury Park, N.J., was heavily recruited by Rutgers, the team George Washington plays today in Piscataway, N.J. However, he made a decision based on cultural opportunity, rather than basketball, and came to George Washington.

"I wanted to get away from home and I love the city of Washington," said Holland, who is interested in politics and worked for Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) last summer. "I visited Rutgers and Seton Hall, but I found they were too close to home. There are excellent career opportunities here and I thought it would be a good situation for me."

At the time, the Colonials were struggling through a 1-27 season and Holland visualized himself as helping turn things around. He did so last year -- up to a point -- and played well enough to be named to the Atlantic 10 all-freshman team.

But the Colonials stumbled to a 14-17 record and Coach John Kuester was fired, to be replaced by Jarvis, a man who had never known a losing record at any level of coaching. There were some doubts entering the current season, no real surprise for a school that had only one winning season in the last 10.

"I knew we were capable of playing well, but whether we could do it was something else," said Holland, whose unusual first name derives from a legendary African king. "Last year there was no real team unity or pride in the program and at the start of this season everybody was pretty skeptical, because we didn't know what to expect from Coach Jarvis.

"But it's all been positive and we've taken some big steps. There's definitely been a big change in attitude. Now there's a sense of pride and we've come together as one."

Of the team's goals for the season, Holland said, "We just wanted to get better every day and get prepared for March. We're definitely capable of winning the {Atlantic 10} tournament. We've had a couple of bad games against Temple, but they're a very beatable team."

Jarvis is pleased with the strides his team has taken, but he can see bigger things in the future. Holland and shooting guard Dirkk Surles have two more years, point guard Alvin Pearsall is a freshman and waiting in the wings are Bill Brigham, a 6-7 transfer from Boston University, and two 7-foot recruits, Anthony Wise from South Carolina and Darrell Collett from New Hampshire.

"Our future is in front of us," Jarvis said. "Our best team should be in Sonni and Bill's senior year.

"Sonni can be a very good player. He's unbelievably tough around the basket, he makes the tough shots and he's great at getting open and getting the basketball. He has a feel and a nose for the ball, and you can't teach that.

"What he lacks is strength. He's gotten stronger this year, but he should have big gains between March and November. If he puts in the work on strength and conditioning, he ought to be able to do what he does now against guys two or three inches taller. That would be something to see."