Holder’s Senior Leadership Permeates as ASU Basketball Moves to 2-0
By Andrew Bell // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, AZ — The ASU men’s basketball team (2-0) trailed by six points at halftime of their non-conference 90-78 win against the San Diego State Aztecs on Tuesday night in Tempe.
ASU was shooting 35 percent from the field at that point and senior guards Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II had combined for 12 points.
However, when the Sun Devils needed a push, it was their senior leadership that ignited the spark. Evans II and Holder hit back-to-back threes and the Sun Devils would never look back.
“In the locker room, we challenged the guys to just play better, and to make better decisions on offense and to make some threes when you are open, and shoot it with confidence,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “Shannon and Tra early in that second half really got us going, and Tra had a terrific game all-around just filling the stat sheet.”
The Sun Devils would outscore the Aztecs in the second half 56-28. Holder busted out after the break, and finished the game with 24 points on 50 percent shooting (7-14 FG’s) to ice the game away. This all came after tallying only nine points in the first half.
“We knew we were getting open looks and shots that we were capable of making,” Holder said. “Coach just preached to keep attacking and keep playing how we practice … We tried to take that attitude into the second half, and it worked for us.”
While much of the attention was focused on the return of redshirt freshman forward Romello White, Holder simply and quietly filled the stat sheet and helped spur an ASU victory from the point guard position.
In addition to his 24 points, Holder grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists in 36 minutes of action.
In ASU’s last game against Idaho State, ASU junior forward De’Quon Lake stole the show with 24 points in his first regular season game with ASU. However, Holder would put forth his own workmanlike effort that was downplayed–picking up 18 points, eight rebounds and a steal in ASU’s first win of the season.
Holder is now in his senior season with the Sun Devils, and he has been running the point guard position in a tough Pac-12 conference for four years.
After a 2016-17 season, where ASU went 15-18 with a small roster and a lack of size, Holder has the components with the addition of White, Lake and a plethora of interior talents to try and make a run in the Pac-12 conference.
“We just have so many options on any given night … You can’t really say who it is going to be,” Holder said. “We just play for one another and we aren’t selfish, and at the end, we just want to win the game.”
As for Holder’s performance against the Aztecs, the senior guard looked like he was in midseason form, and he dispersed the ball to all of his teammates.
“I saw some things in the first half that I could create and get into the paint a little bit more,” Holder said. “…I just tried to be more aggressive and make plays.”
White finished the game with a double-double–Picking up 16 points and 15 rebounds while Lake yielded another solid performance by dropping 15 points, and shooting 100 percent from the field in a highly efficient performance.
The two new big men not only got the job done on the inside, but they were able to work with Holder and the other guards on the defensive end as well.
“We are helping the guards out,” White said. “If they get beat, we got to help them, and they are going to help us.”
From the defensive end to the offensive end, Holder certainly finds a way to reward his big men.
“I think they just make the jobs of the guards so much easier,” Holder said. “They are such a big presence down there in the post and on the defensive end, so the team has to honor them … I am just glad to play with them.”
Holder has been surrounded by a number of talented guards this season, including freshman guard Remy Martin and senior guard Kodi Justice.
With this surfeit of talent in the backcourt, Holder has been able to elevate his game in practice, and it is paying dividends in his early season performances.
“Every day, you got to go against Shannon, Remy, Kodi, and even guys who are sitting out like Rob Edwards,” Holder said. “Every day, you have to bring your game or you are going to get embarrassed, so I think that has helped me a lot … They push me to become better.”
With a 2-0 start and a convincing victory over a tough San Diego State team, Holder has his team right where they want to be to begin the season.
Up next, ASU will take on Northern Arizona University on Friday at Wells Fargo Arena. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. MST with Alexander Gaul and Will Everett on the call on Blaze Sports Mixlr.
Andrew Bell is one of Blaze Radio’s beat writers for ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBell7 .