TitanCentral.com had a chance to speak with Ralphy this past Saturday so let's take a look at what he had to say about this year's squad in addition to numerous other topics.
TitanCentral.com: Let's just get this out of the way. Much has been written about your suspension and you have gone through a tremendous amount over the last year and a half but is there anything more you would like to say about this subject?
Ralphy Holmes: It's done, it's over with. I've paid my dues to society and it's now in my past... It's made me stronger as a person. It's made me grow up, be more mature and it's made me realize what I have right now.
TC: Outside of the folks at TitanCentral.com, absolutely no one thought you would come back and finish up your career at Cal State Fullerton after being booted from school for an entire year. What was Ralphy Holmes thinking when he decided to come back?
RH: I just missed competing and doing what I do best. I just missed this whole atmosphere and this college experience. Being at Fullerton, you all have embraced me so much and I missed that thrill.
When I came back to a game last year, I just felt that energy, that vibe and everyone was like, "Ralphy man, glad you're back." And going back home to Philly too, they were like, "You gotta get back there." Just a combination of two things: You all and my family.
TC: Yes, we distinctly remember that game and all the energy that came with you. The team had a very lackadaisical look but when you stepped in the place went nuts and our players on the court responded. It was incredible, never seen anything like it.
RH: Yeah, I felt it. That was a big factor for me.
TC: Let's switch gears and talk about your education. The coaches tell us you have gone far beyond their expectation both on and off the court. They say you are doing very well in school, even pulling down a couple A's. Sounds like you have surprised a few people?
RH: Yeah, I've done real well, I've shocked a lot of people this semester. I'm waiting for one grade right now and it should be a C. It's a real tough class, a sociology class and he's (instructor) really picking my brains but all my other classes, I've shocked myself. After this semester I only need like 13 units to graduate.
TC: Tell us about back home, where you grew up in Philadelphia.
RH: There really isn't much difference between here and Philly. Probably the only difference between me being here and on the East coast is family. There are some wonderful people out here, you all could blend in right back in Philly if you all could take the cold. We have the same things in Philly as there are in LA. Not too much difference. The weather and family is pretty much it.
TC: How do you compare this year's team with the team you played on two season's ago?
RH: Way different. Better players and more fire. People have a fire behind them now. When I played here, people were afraid to shoot, not really scared but people were afraid to step up to the plate and take tough shots. This team right here, everyone wants to take that last shot.
I'm glad they're getting a little confidence right now, like with Jermaine Harper hitting a little buzzer beater.
That's the main difference between my team and this year's team, a lot of people have a lot of fire behind them. They want the ball, they go to the ball, they don't run from the ball.
I'll miss my man Z-Smith though. That was one of the best point guards I've ever played with. LB's a good point guard too but they're different styles. John Clemmons too, both of them ar tough though and can get you the ball when they want to.
TC: The team has played five games without you now, how do you see your role and how do you think you'll fit into the lineup?
RH: I'm going to take it game-by-game. I'm a team player. You know, I've been in the fire already so I'm just going to do what coach wants me to do. I ain't going to pout my lips or nothing like that. When I'm on the court I'm going to be productive.
To me, it starts in practice. I've been practicing with the guys all year so my teammates are giving me respect and that's all that counts. I'm just going to be productive, on the bench and on the floor, and just take more of a leadership role.
TC: It seems like it's a much different atmosphere between practice and games. You are certainly one of the hardest working players in practice but your game really shines when the lights are on, is this the way you see it?
RH: Yeah, that's my old saying. A lot of players I've played with, they were PTPers -- Practice Time Players -- you know what I mean. I had a lot of those dudes on my teams, not much happens when the lights come on.
For me, when the lights come on, it's game time. I'm blacked out. I'm in a zone.
I'm tired of playing against my teammates, to tell you the truth. I haven't played against somebody in four or five months. Everybody here knows my moves, I need to jig somebody out with a head-fake.
TC: During practice I have heard a few times where the coaches are telling you not to pass up an open shot. They say the best player in the Big West needs to take that shot. Is this a little different philosophy you are used to?
RH: I think it's just being unselfish. I want to make the extra pass. I know I can shoot, I know I can get to the hole anytime I want and create but sometimes I might want to get somebody else some confidence and let them know I'm not all about shots.
A lot of times when a player puts up a lot of shots like that, they think that you're going to shoot all the time, and then you try and make a pass and they have their head turned. So I'm just trying to warm up to my teammates and let them know I always have an eye out so just be ready. I know when to be aggressive and when to be unselfish.
TC: Some believe you and LB may butt heads because you are so similar and you both like to score. Do you think this will be a problem?
RH: Nah man, I need that. I wish I had LB when we played Utah State in that tournament game. I need somebody who has that same desire as me, who wants to score, who wants to win. That's what it's about. More firepower for us baby.
I'm glad we've got Jermaine Harper as well. It's going to free up a lot of stuff for me. I may be getting 13 rebounds and 10 points, who knows, you know what I mean. They're going to free up a lot of stuff for me.
TC: In your previous season, was that a problem, where you kick it out and have no confidence it's going into the hole?
RH: Yes, yes, yes man. Now there's more options, there aren't any restrictions. They just can't focus on one person on the court anymore. Coach is running so many plays for me and Yaphett where they are post up plays. That's good, I can post up, that's one of my biggest strengths.
TC: Speaking of posting up, our front court seems to be this years biggest weakness. Is anyone going to be able to step up?
RH: That's our problem right now. People aren't holding their ground down there. They are letting people come around them and take away the ball. Coach, at one point, he was like, "Don't even throw the ball to the post." But we need them. We need to get them some confidence and they need to step it up. I think Jamaal Brown will step up, he has that feistiness in him and wants the ball every time down.
TC: Were you apprehensive at all coming back, not knowing any of these guys? Worried that they wouldn't embrace you?
RH: Nah man. Not at all.
TC: Earlier this year you said you were out of shape. Where are you at right now?
RH: I'm at like a 95%, pushing to 100. I just got to get out there. It's going to take me like a half (game) just to get my feet wet, get myself back underneath the whistle, know my spots on the floor ... It's going to take awhile because I haven't played in, like I don't know how long.
TC: What are your goals on the floor this year? Have they changed since you started the year?
RH: My goals haven't changed. I want nothing but the best. First off I want to win. Then I want to go out and put myself into position to make some money after this but do it in a team concept. I can score, that's what I do. I would like to finish at the top of the league while at the same time be nothing less than first team (All Big West). But we have to win though.
TC: We haven't had a winning season in a long time. Do the players worry about this kind of stuff?
RH: We can't change the past, we can only look to the future. The team is doing a great job right now. Coach is getting on us to have that winning attitude. Our day is coming though. It's looking good. Next year as well. We're bringing in a lot of good players. Frank Robinson is going to be a tremendous player here.
TC: What about your academic goals and what will that degree mean to you?
RH: Getting a degree will mean as much to my family as it does to me. It's mean a lot to my fiance and my baby, and my mom. It's something long term and they can't take it away from you. All my life I wasn't a school-type of person and I was happy and satisfied with my AA degree. My initial focus wasn't to come here and get a degree, I'll tell you that. I was coming here two years, bang, bang, let's go. But now, with me being so close ... I just want to get it for my family.
TC: Any final words you want Titan fans to know?
RH: Be ready. I'm going to give you a lot of excitement, man. A lot of energy, I'm gonna play hard every possession. Loose balls, dive, let's go. Couple buzzer beaters now and then, jump in the stands, you know what I'm sayin'.
You all have been there from day one and I appreciate you all. You are my biggest fans. You don't have to worry about me though, for real. I'm going to play every possession hard, like it's my last 'cause it is my senior year and I'm going to try to go out with a bang.