ROSELLE, N.J. – Jesse Holley will attend North Carolina on a football scholarship, but he also makes it clear that he intends to play basketball as well for the Tar Heels next year.
At least that is what former UNC basketball coach Matt Doherty told him.
With the recent coaching transition in Chapel Hill, there was some doubt cast on Holley's plan. However, he said he was never too worried about the quality of the Tar Heels new replacement.
"When you're dealing with a big-time program, you're not going to get garbage," Holley said. "No matter who they chose – whether it was going to be Roy Williams or Larry Brown – it was not going to be someone that was from under a rock. When you say schools like North Carolina – they want the best, so that's what they're going to get. Whoever they had come in was going to be a well-known, respected guy."
Holley said that, just last week, he spoke with new Tar Heels' basketball coach Roy Williams and football assistant and New Jersey-area recruiter Jim Fleming. Holley said both reassured him that he would still get the opportunity to pursue two sports.
"I spoke to Matt and everything was real open," Holley said. "With the new situation and Roy Williams, I was not really sure how it was going to work. I talked with Coach Fleming and he said everything was going to be as we discussed it before I signed. So he said, ‘Don't think that it is going to change.'
"I'm hoping that it doesn't. I'm not going to lie and say I won't be upset if it does."
Holley's addition as a two-sport athlete would be good news for both programs -- especially basketball. A phenomenal scorer and incredible leaper, many close to the Rams' program believe Holley may be most impressive on the hardwood.
"Jesse could play anywhere in the country at the Division I level," Abraham Clark head basketball coach Stan Kokie said. "He takes all of his moves, agility and athleticism and puts it into his football game. Once he catches the ball, he just has such great moves and he gets those from the basketball court."
So plan on seeing Holley in Carolina Blue throughout the fall and winter next season.
"I was being recruited heavily by Miami, and the first thing they said when I came in the door was that I couldn't play (both sports)," Holley said. "So I told them I'm not coming to Miami, and that they could count me out now.
"At first, I had ruled out Carolina," he said. "In the days counting down, it was getting real tough. Virginia was coming on strong and North Carolina was coming on strong. I knew either decision would be a good decision for me, but I wanted it to be a great decision. I wanted it to be a decision I could live with for the rest of my life and be happy about it."
His influential grandmother Yvonne was most impressed by Fleming and the UNC coaches as well, but she didn't want to have the final say on her grandson's decision. Jesse was actually planning on canceling his visits to Carolina until Yvonne stepped in.
"I did talk to all of the coaches that came here," she said. "I wanted North Carolina and I explained to Jesse why I wanted North Carolina. But I wanted to make it very clear to him: ‘I don't want you to get up one morning and say I'm here because this is where my grandmother wants me to be.' I want him to be where he wants to be."
With all the variables in his scholastic and athletic future now in place, Holley said he is counting down the days until his enrollment.
"Every day I talk about: I'm ready to go to school; I'm ready to go to school," Holley said. "I'm ready to learn this offense and get into a real program. I'm just so eager to be coached."
Rams head football coach Lou Grasso:
"As far as young men goes, he's probably one of the best citizens I've had here in a long time. Athletic-wise, he probably is the best athlete I've ever had here. I've been coaching football here for 30 years now, and he's the best I've ever coached. He could have played for any school in the country. He's that good."
And 26-year Rams basketball coach Stan Kokie:
"He's the first that has played varsity basketball for four years at our place. His game went up and down. This year, he has just turned into a complete basketball player. He's a tremendous scorer with great athletic ability. He's the type of player that wants the ball in his hands at crunch time. He loves to go baseline. This year we worked with him on giving the ball up and he averaged about 10 assists per game, while still averaging about 22 points per game."