Sky Is Limit For Grounded DaRon Holmes
DaRon Holmes is not your typical incoming high school sophomore. He stands somewhere around 6-foot-8 with arms that can scratch his ankles without using much effort to do so. He is still built much like a regular 15 year old kid that can eat every piece of pizza in the box and not gain a pound for it.
While DaRon's mix of raw talent, athleticism, size and ability is what has many high-major colleges envisioning him in their uniform in a few years, it is the stuff behind the curtain that make him even more of a promising prospect.
On Sunday morning, skills trainers Vaughn Compton and Brendon Lavender held a private workout for some of the top guards in the state. Following that 90 minute workout, it was trainer Russell Hinder that came in for another 90 minutes to work with some of the state's top big men. DaRon Holmes was there for both sessions.
Most people that know or deal with DaRon know his passion for improving as a player every day. It is quite obvious that he has a burning desire to be great. As I write this article, he holds four Division-I offers from Grand Canyon, Arizona State, California and New Mexico. But if you think he is happy with those offers, think again. He works with a special piece of something that most at his age can not duplicate. He knows that he does not just want to be good, but he wants to be dominate.
However, if you have one conversation with him it would be hard to tell. He is a little on the quiet side. He does not come across as brash and you have to really look for his undeniable confidence to see it. He comes across more as a humble young man that is still figuring out what every one else see's in him on the court. Nevertheless, that is becoming obvious to even him.
He is a good blend of potential and production right now. With his length you do not see many his age have the ability to grab a rebound off the rim and take it down the floor and either get himself a bucket or set a teammate up for one. Offenses can run through him. He distributes the ball well and makes the extra pass while he is starting to figure out when to be aggressive and take a game over himself. His bounce and athleticism are starting to catch up to his body and the light bulb that needed to come on that allows you to take over and dominate a game is finally started to be switched on from time to time.
He played all spring and summer with one of the better 15U teams on the west coast, Powerhouse 15U Elite coached by Vaughn Compton, alongside one of the top 2022 prospects in the country in 6-foot-10 power forward Dylan Anderson. After a huge spring and starting to gain some national recognition, he was invited to the Under Armour Work-Out at the IMG Academy in Florida. It was there that he was surrounded around talent that was either at his level or possibly even a step ahead of him and it seemed as if some new switch got turned on in his head.
He came back to Arizona in time for summer ball with his high school team, Millennium, and one of the growing local coaching legends, Head Coach Ty Amundsen. Riding with his fellow incoming sophomore road dog, 5-foot-11 point guard Justus Jackson, Millennium played some of the top competition in the state all month long. DaRon looked great in those games, even while playing a little hobbled at times. When they played in the ASU team camp they squared up with national prep school, Hillcrest Prep. In that game, he hit another coming-of-age performance against some guys that were more developed physically and as players overall. But he was not detoured. He got his shot blocked, then came back with a strong 2-handed dunk. He got knocked down but he got up. He got scored on, but went back at the guy on the other end.
In July, DaRon spent the majority of the live period events looking like the best player on the floor in nearly every game while his Powerhouse team traveled to Atlanta for the Under Armour Challenge, then the LA-area for the West Coast Elite 100, before finishing in Las Vegas for the Big Foot Summer Classic. While his name was already starting to ring some bells on the circuit, it was at that event that I heard the first mid-major college coach say "I love him, but he's way above us." It was, of sorts, a coming out party for DaRon, with some faces in the crowd that remember they had heard the name somewhere recently but couldn't place exactly where it was and who it was from.
After playing in the four-game showcase event hosted by Ryan Silver and the West Coast Elite basketball program, he took part in the Elite 100 Camp. During his three individual showcase games, he was unbelievable. I would be shocked if he did not lead that whole camp in dunks and he displayed his all-around game in front of nearly every D1 college program in the country. He would end up being one of only two campers from the 2021 class selected to play in the coveted top 20 all-star game. And once again, he looked like he belonged in a game filled with high-major prospects from top to bottom.
Powerhouse Hoops program director and owner John Ortega has raved about the young man that he feels represents his program so well. He feels he has, not just from a player perspective, but an overall kid and human being, that represents the brand he has built as good as anyone that has ever worn a jersey with their logo on it. When he speaks about him, it's as you might imagine what Gregg Popovich sounds like when speaking about legendary Spurs big man, Tim Duncan.
Arizona has only had a limited amount of high major prospects come out of the state. Most people that have put some time into Arizona basketball can name at least 90% of them off hand. There is very little doubt in my mind that DaRon Holmes will be one of the names to remember in a few years. And it is not his production on the court or what most see on the floor that make me draw that prediction.
DaRon's mom and dad have become familiar faces in the Arizona high school basketball community. They do not miss much, while also juggling stuff with DaRon's youngest brother, Cam, who is a young stud on the basketball court as well. The family dynamic is a strong and supportive one. While his youngest brother wants to follow in his footsteps of what he see's out of his big bro right now, DaRon's little brother, Q, is the middle child and scholar of the trio. The brotherly love that extends far beyond the hardwood.
His mother, Tomika, works full-time as a teacher and coaches the boys basketball team at Trinity Lutheran School in Goodyear. But a passion that started in her kitchen 15 years ago in Nashville, Tennessee has became a business for her and the family, making designer-style cakes under the name TomiCakes. While the cakes look as if you should never ever touch them and only leave them for display with the amount of detail and quality they are made with, it is her grandmother's words that play in her head as she grows this business, "don't just make a cake look good, you better make sure it tastes good too." I can only imagine what I can do with one of those cakes and a glass of milk.
Daron's dad, known in most circles as "Big DaRon" or "Big D" is a Healthcare IT Consultant when he is not being a full-time basketball dad. In dealing with him for the last 5 or so months he has a great combination and feel for when to be the concerned parent that does everything in his power to make sure his son is in the right place to succeed but knows when to hang back and let his son grow on and off the court. He does not seem to be a big fan of rest, but more of the "repetition feeds greatness" mantra. He understands his son is an absolute gym rat and provides him with every opportunity to become the player his son wants to be.
While the family has enjoyed the ride thus far, they have their feet firmly planted on the ground. They remind little DaRon all the time that while the hype is great and his hard work has earned it, he is receiving most of that off of potential. And a lot of players have gotten hype off of their potential and did not pan out. But it is all about if "Deuce" (the nickname he is called by his father) stays focused on getting better that will determine if he is worth the hype.
Holmes is starting to reach that next phase of being good to the point that you start thinking of where this game might take him one day. The options and opportunities are endless. But it is much more than what this basketball journey is that will probably make you a fan of DaRon Holmes. It might be his easy-going demeanor or the fact that the kid has next to nothing in the ego tank. The fact that he loves seeing his teammates and other kids shine. Or may be its that he still has the goofiness that comes along with being a teenager and he still asks questions that at times makes you realize he is still a kid that is becoming a young man. Or may be that, aside from all this basketball, he is a very good student that balances his passions and hobbies so well with his priorities.
To his family, it has been a blessing watching all the acclaim and recognition DaRon has gotten. They still remember the 3 year old little boy that used to walk around with his basketball all day and night. Or the little kid that used to spend a lot of time at the local YMCA that his mom worked part-time at. You always get the sense that they are trying to remind him that basketball does not define who he is in the world, but ride that train as far as it will take you.
That family is a deep-rooted one. At any given time a grandmother or cousin will show up with the family to show their support and have their presence felt. It's a family full of huggers, a trait that I have learned comes from one's that are closely knitted. His father is originally from Overland Park, Kansas. Mom and Dad met while his mother was going to college at Kansas. After Mama Tomika was done with school they moved back to her hometown of Nashville where they spent somewhere around 15 years. In 2015, they relocated to Phoenix and have laid their roots down here ever since.
But the family does not just rely and appreciate their own. They believe that it takes a village to help DaRon grow during such a crucial time in his development. They appreciate all his trainers and coaches that have molded him thus far the same way they thank a cousin that comes around to be an influence in his life. It takes a special family dynamic to see things like that. Yet another reason to be a "Deuce" fan.
This upcoming season is expected to be a big one for a very young, but talented, Millennium Tigers team. They bring back most of the talent that led them to a region championship last year while they were competing in 6A with mostly underclassmen. This year, they will move down to 5A and will go into the season as one of the favorites to win the state title. This should make for an interesting 2018-19 campaign for Holmes and Company as I look forward to being able to witness the growth and maturation of DaRon Holmes right in front of my eyes, as we all should.