High-energy Holliday looks to build on freshman seasonWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ironically, one of Toledo’s most energetic basketball players used to not even want to play the sport.
“My mom made me play,” sophomore guard Reese Holliday said. “I didn’t really want to play basketball like that. She signed me up. There was a little YMCA league, and when she tried to make me go I didn’t want to go practice; none of that. She ended up making me go. I started liking basketball and then I was like, ‘I can do something with this. I can get to college with this.’”
That was when Holliday was a young boy. By the time the Kansas City, Kan. native got to junior high, Holliday’s passion for the game increased and he knew he was one of the better players on the floor.
“When I saw all my friends playing I was like, ‘Shoot. I might as well play, too,’” Holliday said. “It was fun. We just had fun, kick it all day playing basketball.”
Holliday’s ability was validated as soon as he got to high school at Sumner Academy, where he started on the varsity team as a freshman and averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists per game. By the time he was a senior, the 6’4”, 220-pound Holliday increased those numbers to 23.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game as he helped the Sabres win the Class 4A state title. Holliday earned state tournament MVP, first team all-state and all-metro honors in 2009-10, also garnering first team All-Class team distinction by the Wichita Eagle and Topeka Capital Journal.
That success translated at the collegiate level, where Holliday averaged 10.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a freshman last season. An active, physical player who often guarded and played multiple positions on the floor, Holliday led the team in minutes per game (32.2), rebounds per game (6.6), free throws (77), free-throw attempts (124) and double-doubles (5). He also became the first Rockets’ player to record double-digit rebounding totals in three consecutive games since Greg Stempin in 2000.
“That’s something I’ve been doing,” Holliday said. “If you’re not going to get the shot, you might as well try to go get the rebound, and on defense.”
Holliday’s contributions at both ends of the floor were necessary on a team that tied the school’s worst record with a 4-28 mark in its first season under Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk. The Rockets played with just five scholarship players in the last six games of the 2010-11 campaign, contests Holliday missed due to a stress fracture in his foot.
“Reese is a positionless player that doesn’t care about position, and that’s what I love about him,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s just a tough guy that goes out and plays the game the right way. He doesn’t care if he plays point guard or center. He just wants to be on the floor.”
Though junior guard Dominique Buckley had to watch from the sidelines last year after transferring from Iowa State, he got to play with Holliday in practice and knows the impact he has on the team.
“Reese is being Reese,” Buckley said. “He’s still doing the same things. He’s out here rebounding. He’s our toughest player. He’s our best rebounder. He’s undersized at the position he plays, but I think that’s to our advantage on the offensive end and on the defensive end as well.
“We feed off of him, really, because when he’s going and he’s rolling everything else is much easier for everyone else.”
Holliday originally committed to UW-Green Bay in high school. When Kowalczyk left, Holliday opened his recruitment back up and—like teammates in sophomore forward Matt Smith and sophomore guard Rian Pearson, who both played for Kowalczyk when he was coaching the Phoenix—decided to follow him to UT.
“They did a real good job recruiting me,” Holliday said of Kowalczyk and his staff. “They had a good relationship with my mom. They had a good relationship with me. I talked to them all through when I was in high school and all that. They sold me on the school.”
Even though the Rockets’ roster will have several new faces in this year’s games, the healthy Holliday will still play his old-school, physical game, one that has drawn him comparisons to another undersized rebounder before his time.
“A lot of people say I play like Charles Barkley when it comes to the rebounding and being undersized and stuff like that,” Holliday said. “I like to play with a chip on my shoulder, play like I’ve got something to prove every night on the court. And that’s what motivates me.”