The ‘Chaminade Crew’ and how Jonathan Holmes has changed the culture of Texas hoops

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NEW YORK — Jonathan Holmes is the lone senior rotation player on the Texas roster, which means he’s the only remaining member of Rick Barnes’ vaunted, but ill-fated, 2011 recruiting class. Shelden McClellan, Julien Lewis, Sterling Gibbs and Jaylen Bond all transferred out of the program within two years of enrolling. Myck Kabongo flamed out after two seasons, one NCAA investigation and a 23-game suspension. Kevin Thomas never even made it to campus.

And Holmes?

He almost left, too. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He couldn’t leave the ‘Chaminade Crew’ behind.

“I thought about leaving with those guys and transferring,” Holmes said. “But there was a quote I was told when I came in: ‘When you leave here, are you going to leave it better than when you came in?'”

If he had left after the disastrous 2012-2013 season, he wouldn’t have, because that was the season that Texas finished just 16-18, failing to make the NCAA tournament or the NIT, instead losing in the first round of the CBI to Houston. That was the same season that Texas lost to Chaminade, a Division II program located in Hawaii that hosts the Maui Invitational, which is where the nickname the ‘Chaminade Crew’ came from.

“It goes to show how far we came and how we stuck together and made it through,” Holmes said, and he’s right, because the Texas program is most certainly better today than it was in 2011 when Holmes enrolled.

On Friday night, No. 10 Texas cruised to a 71-55 win over overmatched Cal in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, with the most impressive part of the win being that they did it without starting point guard Isaiah Taylor, who broke a bone in his wrist on Thursday night after an ugly spill late in a big win over Iowa. He may miss the next month and a half.

Texas was not hurt by the absence of Taylor on Friday, thanks in large part to the presence of Holmes, who is arguably the nation’s most underrated player. The 6-foot-8 forward finished with 21 points, 13 boards and two Lebron-esque, chase down blocks a night after he scored 16 second half points in a come-from-behind win over Iowa.

On the basketball court, it’s easy to figure out what makes Holmes so valuable for this Texas team.

He’s got the size and the strength of a power forward at this level. That’s what he was recruited to Austin as. That’s the position he’s played for most of his career. But over the last couple of years, Holmes has expanded his game. He’s not Kyle Korver, but he’s a good enough shooter that opponents cannot allow him open looks from three. If a defender closes out on him too quickly, he can put the ball on the floor and beat them off the dribble.

“[Holmes is] a 6-foot-8, 230 pound guy that can go inside-outside,” Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin said.

He can play the small forward position, and that creates a huge advantage for this Texas team. He can overpower a typical small forward, but he can also spread the floor, meaning that he can’t be helped off of when the likes of Myles Turner and Cameron Ridley are scoring on the block.

“It’s like a five or six headed monster,” Cal’s David Kravish said. “You cut off one and they bring three more after you.”

“We don’t have bodies like that,” Martin added.

As good as Holmes is, as much of a matchup problem as he creates, it’s his presence off the floor that sets the tone for this team. Holmes is a work-a-holic, willing to completely retool his jumper, and unselfish enough that he’s willing to change positions during his final year in school if it will help his team win.

“He’s a senior and that’s what you expect from him,” Barnes said. “I don’t know if there’s a harder worker in the country. If people knew how much time he put into basketball. He literally lives in our practice facility.

“He was willing to learn a new position as a senior.”

When your lone senior, the elder statesmen in the locker room, is willing to work that hard and to make those sacrifices, it sets a tone for the team. Can an incoming freshman be concerned about his shots or complain about his playing time when he sees the face of the program putting the team first?

“Everybody bought in. Everybody wanted to be part of the solution,” Holmes said. “People talked down on us and we didn’t listen to it. We had a season like we had last year and we’re trying to build on that.

“It’s good to win and it’s even better to win with these guys.”

Holmes was named the MVP of the tournament on Friday night after the game, but in the locker room following the win over Cal, Barnes said that he believed Demarcus Holland’s defense and aggressiveness earned him the MVP.

So what did Holmes do?

“Jon handed Demarcus Holland the MVP trophy,” Barnes said.

And he wasn’t even a member of the ‘Chaminade Crew.’

Duke lands Steward, third commitment in the Class of 2020

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Duke landed their third commitment in the Class of 2020 on Wednesday, as Chicago shooting guard D.J. Steward pledged to play his college ball for Coach K.

A high-volume scorer and potent shot-maker, the 6-foot-2 Steward visited Duke over the weekend before committing.

“Me and my family were amazed on our official visit, we loved the principals of Duke, and how united Duke is as a basketball program,” Steward told Rivals.com. “At Duke I will be able to get the best of both worlds; education wise and on the court playing on the biggest stage possible night in and night out.

“I will get to chase my goals and be one step closer to achieving my dream of playing in the NBA. Also I will be able to develop as a person off the court and as a ball player while playing under the most winningest coach in history, Coach K.”

Steward joins five-star forward Jalen Johnson and five-star point guard Jeremy Roach in Duke’s 2020 recruiting class. Johnson is the quintessential small-ball four that we have seen arrive in Durham in recent classes, while Roach appears to be the heir apparent to Tre Jones at the point guard spot. Steward should fit in nicely playing off the ball for the Blue Devils, who can always use some excess shot-making.

Duke is far from done here, as they are in the mix for the likes of Walker Kessler, Ziaire Williams and Henry Coleman.

New York senator the latest to propose bill to abolish amateurism

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A second state now has legislation in the works that would make it legal for college athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness.

Kevin Parker, a New York state senator from Brooklyn, has proposed a bill similar to California’s Fair Pay To Play act, not only giving college athletes the ability to sell their NIL rights but also requiring athletic departments to give a 15 percent share of their annual revenue to the student-athletes. California’s bill, which will go into effect in 2023 if it is signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, would make removing a student-athlete from their scholarship for accepting endorsement money illegal.

“It’s about equity,” Parker told ESPN. “These young people are adding their skill, talent and labor to these universities.

“You don’t need the shortcuts and the end-arounds because now we’re providing some real support for these student-athletes.”

New York joins the growing list of organizations that are pushing back against the NCAA’s rules on amateurism. South Carolina, Maryland, Colorado and Washington have had legislators discuss whether or not to make similar changes to the law, while Congressmen from North Carolina and Connecticut have made pushes at the federal level. Democratic Presidential candidate Anrew Yang has blasted the NCAA over their amateurism rules, while just last week, NBA agents made public the fact that they will be refusing to register for the NCAA’s proposed certification process.

Rick Pitino, Louisville settle lawsuit

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 19: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals looks on in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 19, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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The University of Louisville and former head coach Rick Pitino have reached a joint agreement to drop their lawsuits against each other.

The two sides “have mutually agreed to dismiss their legal claims against each other, designate his departure as a resignation and move forward,” according to a joint statement that was released by the University and Pitino. Pitino will not be paid any money as a result of this settlement, but he departure will now be classified as a resignation, effective Oct. 3rd, 2017.

Pitino had sued Louisville for somewhere around $40 million.

“For 17 years, Coach Pitino ran a program that combined excellence on the court with a commitment to the program’s student-athletes, their academic achievement, and their futures in and out of basketball,” the state said. “Nevertheless, there were NCAA infractions during his term which led to serious consequences for the university. Although these infractions may not have occurred at Pitino’s direction or with his knowledge, the problems leading to NCAA infractions happened under his leadership. We thank Coach Pitino for his years of service to the University of Louisville basketball program and wish him well.”

“Today I move on to a new chapter in my life,” a statement from Pitino reads. “Against my lawyer’s advice, I’m dropping my lawsuit with ULAA. I am very proud of the many accomplishments my teams achieved at Louisville. I’m so thankful and honored to coach such dedicated athletes. I’m also disappointed in how it ended. But as head coach I am held responsible for the actions of all team members. I still have so much passion for the game and so many goals I want to achieve. From this day forward I start my climb.”

Kentucky lands commitments from two more elite prospects

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John Calipari is getting his work done early in the 2020 recruiting class, as he added two more commitments over the weekend.

On Thursday, it was Lance Ware, a 6-foot-10 post player from Camden, New Jersey, that announced his commitment. Ware is a top 50 recruit that held offers from the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Miami. The bigger news, however, came on Saturday afternoon, when Terrance Clarke announced that he will be enrolling at Kentucky whenever he ends his high school tenure. Clarke is currently a member of the Class of 2021, but the plan is for him to reclassify and graduate high school this year.

Clarke is a consensus top three player in 2021 – and he may be the No. 1 player in that class, depending on who you ask – and should immediately vault into the top five of the 2020 recruiting class. An athletic, versatile wing that stands 6-foot-6, Clarke is a potential lottery pick given his physical tools and the way that he projects as multi-positional defender with the ability to create off of the dribble. Ware, like Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery before him, projects as the kind of player that will spend 2-3 years in Lexington.

Clarke and Ware join top ten prospect B.J. Boston and another top 50 recruit, Cam’Ron Fletcher, in Kentucky’s 2020 class. That’s three wings in the class with Johnny Juzang, Kahlil Whitney, Dontaie Allen and Keion Brooks currently on campus. Throw Montgomery into the mix, and that’s eight players that fit somewhere into a lineup as a wing or a face-up big man, and it seems rather unlikely that all five of the guys currently at Kentucky will leave the school this offseason. Put another way, this looks like the end of Kentucky’s pursuit of the likes of Jalen Green and Josh Christopher.

Calipari is still recruiting Cade Cunningham despite the fact that many expect Cunningham to end up at Oklahoma State, where Mike Boynton hired his brother Cannen, but Cade has skyrocketed up the recruiting rankings as he has transitioned to playing the point. Kentucky is still in the mix for a handful of other forwards, including Scottie Barnes, Isaiah Todd and Greg Brown.

Tony Bennett turns down raise, signs contract extension

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Virginia announced that they have signed head coach Tony Bennett to a contract extension, keeping him under contract through the 2025-26 season.

This is not unexpected. He just won the national title. I think he earned a new deal.

What is unique here, however, is that Bennett turned down a raise. He asked for more money for his assistants and for some cash to be put towards improvements in both his program and the other Virginia sports teams, but he passed on getting more money put into his own bank account.

“[My wife] Laurel and I are in a great spot, and in the past I’ve had increases in my contract,” Bennett said in the news release. “We just feel a great peace about where we’re at, all that’s taken place, and how we feel about this athletic department and this community and this school. I love being at UVA.

“… I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much [in men’s basketball], that’s my desire.”

That’s the dream scenario right there, being rich enough to turn down more money.