Stephen Holt making a name at St. Mary's

When Stephen Holt was a senior point guard at Jesuit High School in 2009, a bucketload of scholarship offers from schools such as Utah, Utah State and University of Portland sat stacked in his bedroom, waiting to be ripped open.

These universities would’ve let the 2010 6A player of the year have the ball from the first day of freshman year until graduation with the independence to shower on 20-point games, lead the team in scoring, garner individual celebrity.

As enticing as the personal glory could’ve been, Holt’s never been about himself. During the Crusaders’ 2010 6A state championship, Holt only averaged 12.7 points a game, instead preferring to defer to his teammates and guaranteeing their confidence levels would be high when he needed them most. by: COURTESY PHOTO: SAINT MARYS COLLEGE ATHLETICS - Former Jesuit point guard Stephen Holt played in the NCAA tournament for the second time in his career for the St. Marys Gaels.

Winning takes precedence over everything to Holt so when St Mary’s College and head coach Randy Bennett offered the Crusader a chance to be part of their booming, ascending program he couldn’t turn it down. Holt committed in September of his senior year, well-aware that St. Mary’s is one of only four games that have won 25 games or more for the past six seasons, placing themselves amongst the elite likes of Duke, Kansas, and West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga.

Two trips to the NCAA tournament, two WCC championships, a pair of All-WCC honorable mention selections and a conference tournament title later, Holt is heading into his senior year at St. Mary’s. His collegiate decision was justified from the time Holt became a regular rotation player and now he dreams of playing professional basketball after this season.

“We play a lot of uptempo, shoot a lot of three’s and Coach Bennett gives his guards a lot of freedom so I wanted to be part of that,” said Holt. “So far, my experience at St. Mary’s has been everything I could’ve asked for. I feel on and off the court I’ve maximized the experience.”

Holt also wanted a school that got up and down in transition and developed lead guards such as himself into upgraded ball handlers and decision makers. He didn’t have to look very far to find a good example of such a player in Patty Mills who graduated from St. Mary’s in 2009 and played for the Portland Trail Blazers when Holt was attending Jesuit.

Holt has been a key cog the past three seasons, supplying steady ball handling and bulldog perimeter defense that’s delighted Bennett.

“Stephen has been a great player for use throughout his career and will play a huge role as a senior this season,” said Bennett. “From the day he stepped on campus, he’s been a big part of this team. He is an all-conference caliber player and he will shoulder a big load this year. He is a great leader, a great player and a wonderful person.”

by: COURTESY PHOTO: SAINT MARYS COLLEGE ATHLETICS - Former Jesuit point guard Stephen Holt will have the ball in his hands a lot more this coming season as St. Marys primary ball handler.

A smooth transition

St. Mary’s is situated in Moraga, CA about 30 minutes outside of San Francisco. It’s a smaller school in the suburbs with less than 4,000 students. Holt said the campus is small enough that he can walk from end to the other in six or seven minutes but there’s a real sense of community at St. Mary’s, particularly amongst the athletes. With so much success over the past decade, the Gaels’ mens team gets an unparallelled amount of support both from the student section that’s on top of the court and the Moraga area. Flip on ESPN or ESPN2 on a Thursday evening or Saturday afternoon and one is bound to run into a St. Mary’s contest. Since the guys’ team is in the spotlight, Holt said its’ their duty to represent the school well.

“It reminds me a lot of Jesuit,” said Holt. “Everyone knows each other on the sports’ teams, we’re all very close. That aspect of community is very important to this school and as a basketball player knowing you’re going to play in a packed house every single game, that’s definitely one of the things I wanted when I was coming down here. It’s definitely a privilege and I just love playing for St. Mary’s.”

The Gaels lost to Gonzaga in the WCC Championship but received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and beat Middle Tennessee State in the play-in game. Holt played big in a win-or-you’re-out scenario, scoring 18 points to go along with six rebounds in a 67-54 win. MTS’s tried to hound Holt and all-WCC point guard Matthew Dellavedova the entire contest, forcing the Gael guards to make quick decisions off the dribble. Holt held up brilliantly, cutting through the teeth of the MTS defense for easy buckets and playing off Dellavedova’s drive and kicks to bury a pair of three’s.

“I was just trying to my team make plays and try to help us win,” said Holt. “It was one of those games being a leader on the team, I had to step up in a big moment and I got it done.”As a program and as a team I felt like we had a really good season.”

St. Mary’s dropped a heartbreaker to Memphis in the second round but Holt said the Gaels fought hard and gave themselves a chance in the end for the upset win. Not a whole lot of Division One players suit up in March Madness but Holt’s made two appearances in two seasons.

“It’s everything I dreamed of as a kid,” said Holt. “You never take those moments for granted. Going into the Memphis game I knew it’d be tough and I just tried to set my emotions aside and play basketball. I’ll cherish those moments forever.”

Winning comes first

Coming out of Ken Potter’s high-rise Jesuit High boys’ basketball program Holt was a highly-touted guard who sought out a program that put an emphasis on winning, not playing time, touches or shot attempts. During his Crusader tenure Holt won two 6A state championships and a pair of Metro titles playing with future high-major college players Kyle Wiltjer and Jeff Elorriaga. While at Jesuit, Holt learned the importance of coming out on top as a team rather than boosting individual accolades and numbers find one’s self watching from the Rose Garden seats come state tournament time. Furthermore, Potter’s two main principles of Crusader basketball: toughness both physically and mentally and intolerant defense helped Holt make the transition from high school ball to the college game.

“I feel like Jesuit trained me and prepared me really well just going out and competing every possession, doing the little things,” said Holt. “The toughness and the defense I learned at Jesuit helped get me onto the court early as a freshman (at St. Mary’s). Coach Potter helped me out a lot with the mental aspect of the game too.”

Jesuit beat Lincoln in the state title game when Holt was a junior and repeated the feat as a senior, bashing Metro archival Westview. With Bennett and former Gael great Patty Mills sitting in the stands, Holt put on a show, scoring 23 points with seven rebounds. For Holt, there wasn’t a better COURTESY PHOTO: SAINT MARYS COLLEGE ATHLETICS - St. Marys guard Stephen Holt is graduating early this year with a degree in business administration.

“Growing up watching Kevin Love and Kyle Singler going at it at Mac Court, that’s something I wanted to do, win a championship,” said Holt. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of sweat collectively as a group over those two years. The relationships I built with my teammates were just something I’ll always remember.”

Looking ahead

Next season’s St. Mary’s squad is going to look a little different with Dellavedova graduating and playing professionally. The Gaels have been waking up at 6 a.m. every single day to ensure they stay on top of their workouts and keep their place amongst the WCC elite.

“The outsiders will probably pick us to be down this year, probably third or fourth in the conference but we don’t really care about what others think about us,” said Holt. “We’re focusing on us and how we can get better each day. We know if we play to our potential we’ll be in the running for another conference championship and hopefully get back to the tournament.”

After playing off the ball for his first season in a St. Mary’s uniform Holt will be playing point guard- his natural position-full time. The ball will be in his hands, running the team and executing pick-and-rolls. Holt’s ultimate individual goal is to play professionally either in the NBA or overseas and as a 6’4” point guard with solid around skills he’ll be on a lot of scouts’ radars. Bennett’s handed Holt the keys to the car, now the senior gets to take the Gaels for a spin towards the NCAA tourney.

Holt is a business administration major who’s going to graduate early this season. Because he’s a student-athlete who misses a lot of class, Holt says he has to manage his time wisely to keep up. It’s similar to his Jesuit days in that he has to be proactive with teachers, making sure he turns in work on time

“I just have to keep working on my overall game, there isn’t one aspect that stands out to me. I have to keep working on my point guard skills, shooting, everything,” said Holt. “I have to make sure I have a great senior year and hopefully get some workouts in before the draft.”

Yet, true to from, Holt said first and foremost he’s focused on St. Mary’s and what he can do to keep the Gaels competitive and successful.

“At the end of the day I’ve focused on what I can do to help this team win and hopefully everything else will take care of itself.”

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