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Preps

Dream players

Aaron Holmes relishes all aspects of playing, even defense.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published April 20, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - St. Petersburg Catholic sophomore Aaron Holmes is not your typical "star" basketball player.

He dives for loose balls. He unselfishly sets up his teammates. And get this: He plays really good defense.

That alone is enough to make Holmes the dream player for any coach, but then throw in an average of 20 points, almost seven rebounds and high-percentage shooting, and you have more than just a dream player.

You have the 2004 Times All-Suncoast Player of the Year, selected from Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

The competition was stiff: Alex Ruoff emerged as a Division I prospect at Central, Andrew Reed was a force inside for Ridgewood and Antonio Russell was Gaither's go-to guy and Hillsborough County's top scorer.

But while all carried their teams this season, no one carried his further than Holmes. For the first time in school history, the Barons played for a state title, losing in the Class 3A final to Cocoa Beach.

"Aaron did a lot of everything for us this season," Barons coach Mike Moran said. "He wasn't just a guy who scored, he made the other guys better as well."

For Holmes, 2004 was another step toward becoming one of the county's best-ever players. He was heralded as an eighth-grader, met high expectations as a freshman, and showed flashes of stardom as a sophomore.

He loses his underrated but valuable wingman, 18-point scorer Travis Karto, to graduation, and next season Holmes will be a marked man and the one counted on to keep St. Petersburg Catholic a 3A power. By then, Holmes said, he hopes to have more than just a statewide reputation as a rising junior.

"I want to be known around the nation," said Holmes, who has an extensive AAU schedule mapped out the next three months.

A 6-foot-3, 176-pound guard/forward, Holmes led SPC is almost every offensive category. He averaged 20.8 points a game, 6.5 rebounds and shot almost 80 percent from the free throw line.

But what may separate from his peers is this: as good as he is on offense, he might be even better on defense. He averaged almost four steals, and his long wingspan and quickness made him a valuable weapon.

He doesn't just like playing defense; he loves it. Which explains why when asked about this season's disappointments, they involve a player he was guarding making a big shot, instead of one he might have missed.

"I love stopping the other team's best player; I take it as a personal challenge," Holmes said. "The way I see it, all the college coaches already know I can score. I want to show them I can also play defense."

As good as Holmes has been, Moran finds the greatest treat coaching him might just be the fact he gets to do so two more seasons.

"Next year, if he makes the jump that he did from last year to this year, he's going to be special," Moran said.

[Last modified April 20, 2004, 01:20:37]


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