There’s a chance Merrill Holden will finally get some peace and quiet after weeks of being bombarded with phone calls and text messages from prospective coaches attempting to woo the coveted graduate transfer.
Holden’s recruitment came to an end Saturday night as the 6-foot-9 forward from Louisiana Tech committed to Iowa State. He had received interest from a number of major programs including Illinois, Auburn, West Virginia and Cincinnati but, in the end, relationships, combined with Iowa State’s dire need for frontcourt depth, landed Holden in Ames.
“The last month, it’s been hectic,” Holden said. “I have to graduate, so I’m in an overload of classes and I still have to work out with all that other stuff. It was just crazy because my phone was blowing up and blowing up and I couldn’t really answer it because it was just too much and I have to focus on my schoolwork and making sure I was on top of my grades and everything else. It feels good to have it over with now and to have a plan in progress.”
Iowa State’s plan for Holden is clear.
The Cyclones, who graduate 44.5 points and 20 rebounds per game from last season with the loss of Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay, expect Holden to help fill some of that void along with fellow incoming graduate transfer forward Darrell Bowie, who will arrive from Northern Illinois in the coming weeks.
Holden, whose wingspan is 7-feet-5-inches, averaged 8.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in 23.4 minutes per game last season. His Per 40 Minutes averages came out to 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
With questions continuing to surround the eligibility of JUCO Emmanuel Malou, Holden could ultimately vie with Bowie to be Iowa State’s starting center.
“They had some great frontcourt guys — Georges Niang, Nader and McKay — losing those guys and the production they did, they valued my athleticism, my versatility, I’m quick off my feet and my skill level, they valued the way I can score around the basket and catch lobs and make plays such as that,” Holden said. “When I got on the visit it just showed me there was a real need. Talking to all the players and really just being there and seeing the situation, it just brought to my attention, there’s a want and there’s a need.”
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm was the first coach to visit Holden in Ruston (La.) on the first day of the open period this spring. Holden’s brother, Jamal Holden, also played for Iowa State assistant Daniyal Robinson at Arkansas-Little Rock.
“Those ties right there were unreal,” Holden said.
Holden will graduate from Louisiana Tech on May 21 and plans to arrive in Ames shortly after. With the resources available at Iowa State, Holden hopes to add between 15 and 20 pounds of muscle in advance of the 2016-17 season.
And after his weekend visit, he knows what that season might hold.
“These guys are really hungry, they want to win, they’re about their business, they get in the gym a lot, they work on their craft,” Holden said. “They do what it takes so when the bright lights come on they’re ready to win. It’s good to have guys like that in your corner, but more importantly, those guys have great high character about themselves.
“Making it to the tournament would be good and being part of a winning program and actually producing for a winning program. They have a real need there for an experienced guy to come in and be an impact.”