“I think he is as improved as any player as I’ve seen in our conference.”
A bold statement coming from Arizona State Head Basketball Coach Herb Sendek about his freshman point guard Tra Holder. Sure he may be a little biased but when you really look at the numbers, he is definitely on to something.
Through the first four games of Pac-12 play, Holder was really struggling to get into a rhythm and was lacking confidence. He had a combined six points, eight assists and nine turnovers during ASU’s 0-4 start in-conference. He was struggling and because of it, the team was struggling because it was in desperate need of a floor general.
But something has clicked. The Sun Devils have won four of their last six games including Saturday’s thrilling home win over number six ranked Arizona. In those games, Holder is averaging 14 points and just under five assists per game. But those are just the numbers. Watching him on the floor he looks like a completely new player. He is creating great looks for teammates which was not there early and even during non-conference play. He is pushing the tempo, he is making great decisions when getting into the paint or running the two man game.
“If you go back to where he was in December and early January and you fast forward to where he is now, he’s made tremendous progress,” mentioned Sendek.
Going from the high school the division I college level is a huge adjustment for any player. It is starting to look as though Holder found where he needed to grow and improve and is starting to weather that storm.
“Back in high school, I was the primary option,” Holder explained. “I got to pick in choose when I could take my shots. It was an adjustment for me but now I have that confidence because I have been working at it hard and if it’s there I try to take it.”
Part of being the floor general is also being the vocal leader of the team. Not an easy task for a young freshman who is breaking into a new level of play and competing along side players who are older and more experienced. With this found confidence of his stemming from the last few games, Holder isn’t afraid to be vocal.
“Coach has been harping on him to try to be more of a leader,” stated ASU senior Jon Gilling. “He’s been after me a few times. I don’t know where it came from. But I think there is something with that.”
Coach Sendek is all about the deep, thought provoking philosophies of the game of basketball. Sometimes with the players he has brought in it has clicked and other times it hasn’t. But there could not have been a more important player at a more important time for it to have clicked with the way it looks to have happened with Holder of late.
“Even when I was down, my coaches and teammates had my back,” mentioned Holder. “They would say it’s going to get better, it’s a long season. There are still doing the same thing now. Nothing’s changed. I’m just thankful for them.”
“You’ve got to just take that old analogy and keep pounding the rock,” added Sendek. “Nobody knows how many blows it takes before the rock splits, and it’s not just your final swing of the sledgehammer that breaks the rock. It’s each successive blow that contributes but that’s not just true of freshman, it’s all of us. Even coaches.”
Holder and the Sun Devils look to ride the momentum of the win over the Wildcats with a big road trip this week against the Washington schools.