Holmes primed for strong sophomore season

At 6-7 and 230 pounds, rising sophomore Mike Holmes of Bishopville, SC became a fan favorite last season as he matured before the eyes of spectators and began to live up to both his potential and his expectations. Read inside as Holmes discusses the upcoming season and how the Gamecocks have responded to new head coach Darrin Horn.

At the beginning of his freshman campaign under the previous regime, (Dave Odom) Holmes battled for playing time leaving many to wonder why the highly touted son of the Palmetto State was not being featured more prevalently. Rumors swirled of an attitude problem and a lack of work ethic, leaving many Gamecock fans concerned. After Odom was able to add to the roster more homegrown talent, something fans have clamored about for years, were they now going to be stuck with a prima donna from their very own state?

There was no need to worry. Before their eyes, Gamecock hoops supporters watched as this young man who led his high school, Lee Central, to their second straight title just a year before, began to mature and, as a result, delight those in attendance at The Colonial Center (now known as The Colonial Life Arena). Holmes himself realized during the season that he had some work to do off the court to improve his play on the court. "I think my work paid off at the end (of last season)," said Holmes. "I came to the gym every day to shoot, get shots up. I did that consistently."

Mike Holmes played in 30 games as a freshman and started in 12. He made 50% of his 216 field goal attempts, leading the team in that category, and also averaged 5.7 boards a game which tied him with teammate Dominique Archie for the lead in that category as well. Holmes began to show heart and determination on the floor, playing with a purpose that often brought the crowd to its feet. It was not uncommon to see Mr. Holmes flying all over the court and diving for loose balls, drawing comparisons to another Gamecock great, Renaldo Balkman. Both displayed an intensity and energy that fired up their teammates and those in attendance.

That energy should translate well into the new scheme. Coach Darrin Horn wants to play an up tempo game that requires a lot of fitness and focus from his players. Holmes prefers it saying, "I like to run up and down the court. Easy buckets, transition... all of that.

"(When a) big man gets the ball, he (Horn) wants us to take one hard dribble, kick it to a guard, and run the floor."

Holmes says that the off-season training has been rough but that his teammates and him are sticking together and helping one another out. He feels that, as a team, they are closer to each other, more than ever. "I think we are together as a team more. We participate in a lot of stuff together as a team," said Holmes. He went on to say. "We have Bible study and devotion together. That comes around to help us as a team."

At 6-7, Holmes is small for his position and spent a lot of time banging with much taller men in the rugged SEC. This season, Holmes is bigger and stronger and he knows it. "I feel more confident," he said. "Lifting weights has paid off. I've gotten stronger. I'm going to stay out there and battle," Holmes added.

Holmes also displayed a nice touch from the perimeter, knocking down several 18 foot jumpers along the baseline. With new head coach Darrin Horn encouraging his guys to get the shot up quickly, Holmes dismissed the idea that he might be launching from the cheap seats. "(My role is) to rebound and block shots," he explained.

Darrin Horn expounded on this saying, "Offense is not equal opportunity.

"If a big man falls in love with the three point line and quits defending and rebounding around the basket, he won't be playing anymore."

With a new coaching staff in place, there has been a transition period for last year's squad. Holmes says it has been really smooth. The most difficult adjustment has been how hard the new staff has pushed the players, but Holmes says the new team mentality is what gets them through the day. More importantly, he feels more comfortable going to his new coach just to talk. "He's younger," Holmes remarked. "I think he has a better understanding of where we're coming from."

After being named to the conference all-freshman team a year ago, Mike Holmes has returned to USC stronger, both physically and mentally. Slated as a starter this season, he immediately becomes one of the leaders on and off the court. He has promised to work even harder this season as an individual and to encourage his teammates to the do the same. He says they have a goal to win more games this season than they did the last and to make the NCAA tournament. For a team that lost so many close ball games last year, Holmes says, "We're going to make the stops at the end of the game (this year)."

There is a quiet confidence to this young man away from the hardwood of The Colonial Life Arena. On the court, well, take a trip down to the Vista and see for yourself.

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