John Holland (COM ’11) is a rare scorer in Boston University basketball history. He sits just 104 points shy of 2,000 for his career, a feat only one other Terrier- Tunji Awojobi from 1993-1997- has ever accomplished. He leads the America East conference with 18.8 points per game, as well as 48 made three-pointers, the offensive key to a Terriers team that has won three of their last four games, including two straight at home. But more impressive than the numbers themselves is how Holland has earned them despite every team BU faces trying to stop him.
“I think everybody’s focusing on him,” says men’s basketball head coach Patrick Chambers. “Until people start to really know who Darryl Partin is, and who D.J. Irving is, and Matt Griffin… people can key on him.”
But no matter what opponents do, nothing seems to faze Holland. Great scorers have the uncanny ability to forget a missed shot, or even several in a row, and keep taking shots until they find their rhythm again. Holland says this is essential.
“You have to have a short memory in the game [of basketball], and the confidence to keep shooting,” Holland says. “You always gotta think the next one’s gonna go in.”
Coach Chambers agrees that Holland’s ability to shrug off missed shots this season “shows his growth.” Chambers also points to Holland’s versatility as a scorer: Against Albany on Saturday, January 15, Holland scored 27 points by hitting 50 percent of his shots, including six three-pointers. He earned his sixth America East men’s basketball Player of the Week award with that performance.
But six days prior, against Vermont, Holland earned 15 of his 24 points from the free-throw line, driving through the lanes over and over again, drawing contact and putting the Catamounts in foul trouble.
The 6-foot-5-inch Holland plays both forward and guard, showing both the shooting guard’s ability to move without the ball and camp in the corners and the small forward’s ability to dribble into the lane, draw fouls and hit jump-shots.
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The 22-year-old Holland was born in the Bronx, NY, growing up on the 27th floor of an apartment building in the Co-op City neighborhood. His father, John Holland, played basketball at Iona College, and Holland has been playing with him since he was six.
Holland has played basketball competitively since the sixth grade, going on to Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, and then doing a post-graduate year at Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, NJ. Holland picked Saint Benedict’s because of the school’s strong basketball program and competition, which would improve his game and national profile, increasing his chances for a scholarship.
Holland chose BU for its academic strengths and for the city of Boston, which he says “is a good fit” for him – – smaller than New York City but nowhere near rural, far enough away from New York City to have its own identity without being too far from home.
Both Holland’s father and his mother, Diana Mills-Holland, are retired schoolteachers. Holland says they instilled in him a strong commitment to academics. Holland says at some point he may consider getting a master’s degree or going into teaching. He works hard at his classes, but says it can be tiring trying to balance his schoolwork with the rigors of being a varsity basketball player.
“It’s basketball 24/7 most of the time,” Holland says.
When he’s not playing, practicing, or studying, Holland still finds himself in the world of sports. His favorite video games are the “Need for Speed” racing games. For television, he likes “The Game,” a BET sitcom about professional football players. His favorite movie is “He Got Game,” starring Denzel Washington and the Boston Celtics’ Ray Allen.
Holland is majoring in public relations, a subject that, along with psychology, he’s always found fascinating.
“Learning about how to interact with people, companies, to try and get your message across in different ways, that always interested me,” he says. Holland also enjoys his major because of its positive effect on his own communication skills.
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Holland wears number 23, the hallowed number of Michael Jordan, but he didn’t choose that number; it was assigned to him. Holland says he originally wanted number 10, but it wasn’t available. But several other numbers, including 23, still were.
“Twenty-three is a great a number, so why not?” Holland says. His favorite NBA player, though, is the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade, who he admires for “how aggressive he is, how he attacks the basket.” Holland has tried to emulate Wade’s aggressiveness, both offensively and defensively. He leads the team in steals with 26, and is just the 10th player in America East history to score 1,800 points and grab 600 rebounds.
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As with most competitive athletes, Holland doesn’t spend too much time thinking about the future, whether it is his job after graduating, playing in the NBA, or having his name hanging in the rafters of the Case Gymnasium.
“The main goal is winning,” Holland says. Regarding where he’d play professionally, even in the NBA Developmental League, he says, “I’d be happy if I could play anywhere.”
But his coach says Holland might have a future in the NBA itself, probably as a shooting guard.
“He has the tools, and the athletic ability, and the work ethic to at least get a chance [in the NBA],” Chambers says. “There’s no question in my mind he can play overseas and make some good money.”
In the coach’s two years with the Terriers, Chambers has seen Holland grow from a “gym rat” to someone who plays with “a sense of urgency, a sense of pride in the uniform across his chest.” But for Holland, a man grateful for the opportunities and education BU has given him, the future is wide open.