Playing in the Indiana/Kentucky All-Star game over the weekend, Aric Holman stood tallest. He scored a game-best 21 points for the Kentucky club, along with six rebounds and three blocked shots. In the process he shone a signal to the rest of college basketball. Sure, most attention has focused a pair of brilliant backcourt Bulldogs.
Now all know, Ben Howland’s first recruiting class has brought in a real frontcourt force.
Of course after a turn in the spotlight Holman is back on campus. And back to the reality of rookie life; attending class, reporting for weight workouts, doing supervised drills, playing informal games, and adjusting to a scripted diet. Is this any way to treat an all-star game star?
Don’t worry. Holman already understands life is changing. “It’s going pretty good,” he says of the transition. “It’s going to take time to get used to it, but it’s a blessing to be here. So I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Bulldog basketball definitely intends taking advantage of what this listed 6-10 forward brings. Re-read what Howland said after scoring this recruit at the very end of the spring signing period.
“He’s extremely skilled. He’s a 6-10 player who is an excellent shooter from the perimeter, and he’s a great passer. That’s really one of his biggest strengths. Aric handles the ball and can dribble, he’s so long and athletic. He’s going to make an impact right away.”
Actually the immediate impact has been on Holman himself. Recruiting credentials get left at the Mize Pavilion door, as he found out on the first day with his first challenge. “In that weightroom!” Holman said. “It was a struggle.”
Naturally. There aren’t many freshman, even those who’ve been in the high school and prep school system for a few more years, prepared to pump iron the way Mississippi State’s staff demands. Then came the instruction where, as noted by classmates Malik Newman and Quindarry Weatherspoon, the coaches instantly tear apart every individual’s game.
“Some of the drills were really different,” Holman admitted. Especially as for his debut days this tall kid was thrown into a group of guards and told to show those ball skills. “Which is different for me,” he said.
“But one thing I can compliment myself, I catch on fast. So that’s why I kind of fit in today.”
It won’t be difficult for Howland to fit Holman into his game plans. In fact, while State obviously needs all the post-power available in this rebuilding process, Holman will not be forced into a specific slot. It’s early but every indication is Holman can be that inside/outside guy able to score, pass, move the ball around, slash to the goal, whatever.
No wonder then Howland already is working his tallest recruit with the smaller guys. “Just mixing it up, doing a little of both,” Holman said. “I think I’ll be guards one week and the bigs next week. But I know it will be a mixture of workouts.”
There is one strong indicator though that the coaching staff foresees Holman working the baseline primarily. The height is fine; the frame needs more muscle. Holman agrees with the 200-pound listing and candidly he doesn’t even look close to that with the lanky build. “They want me to get up to at least 215 for the season, maybe 220.”
As noted Holman did not make his final college call until the last official visit. Howland hit the jackpot by having that final chance to make a recruiting case because Holman committed while on campus and took care of paperwork just before the May 20 deadline.
It may sound like a hasty choice. Not to Holman. He saw it as the right choice.
“To be honest I just felt trust in Coach Howland and the staff and the players. My visit was so fast, I just felt it was a chance I couldn’t pass up.” Everything since then has reinforced the decision. Such as when Holman had his rude reality check in the Mize weightroom. It’s not unknown for college veterans to make fun of rookie reactions to real weightlifting, after all.
“But all the players were backing me up. So they gave me a lot of motivation to go through the drills and stuff,” said Holman. “When I first walked in the locker room it was all love. And I really respect that.”
With two summer weeks done Holman and classmates are settling into the routine. The three high-profile freshmen are acclaimed as the Dog to turn this program around, and they do enjoy the attention. They also recognize that their elders have been through the SEC wars and are hungry for success, too.
So, “At the end of the day we know still have to put that work in on the court.”