Montlake Madness Names its Very Favorite Player: Justin Holiday

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I’ve been wanting for a while to write about my very favorite player on the Huskies, Justin Holiday. He’s such an easy guy to overlook — hell, he’s not even the most famous basketball player in his own house — but, he just plays the game the right way. /

Now, what does that overused phrase mean? I think, for Justin Holiday, the main thing it means is that no one could look at his numbers from last year, without having watched him play, and fully grasp his importance to the team. His most impressive stats were definitely not the ones attached to his own name (2.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 44.1% FG pct.).

But, take a look at James Harden’s numbers in the games he played against the Dawgs, in which he was checked almost exclusively by Darnell Gant and Justin Holiday. Although Harden ran roughshod over the Huskies during the Pac-10 tournament, he played two very ordinary games against us during the regular season, both Husky wins. Here are Harden’s numbers against the rest of college basketball, and then against the Huskies:

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harden numbers copy /

I realize the scoring numbers are close, but Harden was a lot less efficient with J-Hol and Darnell Gant hounding him for the entire game. And, if you take away his 24-point performance in the Pac-10 tournament game, we held him way below his averages in the two Washington wins.

If Gant and Holiday don’t combine for such stellar defense to keep the league’s best player in check, the Huskies might not have won those two regular-season games against the Sun Devils, especially the second one — an absolute thriller — and, maybe we never win the Pac-10.

You also have to respect a guy who can buy into a system that hasn’t yet highlighted him as a scorer while watching his younger brother have more free reign in his one season at UCLA, not quite live up to his hype, and then get drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft. Holiday gives every indication of being that rare player who can leave his ego at the door and do what’s best for the team. Think about the discipline it must have taken from Holiday to spend about sixteen minutes per game on the court last season, and to have never taken more than four field goal attempts in a game. Not once.

And, finally, just watch Holiday on the court. He’s always in the right place, always passing to the right guy, rotating on defense, and (as a reader pointed out recently) showing that he’s got the highest basketball IQ on the team.

While Holiday played more than his 15.6 minutes-per-game average in all three games against the Sun Devils, he was nearly forgotten in the NCAA tournament, playing six minutes against Mississippi State and five against Purdue. If I could ask Coach Romar one question about that Purdue game, it’d be why we didn’t see more Justin Holiday in there to guard 6’4″ Keaton Grant, who dropped three three-bombs on us and grabbed 10 rebounds, going a long way to ending our season.

This year, though, I don’t guess we’ll see Holiday languishing on the bench very often. In fact, he’s a great dark-horse pick to break the starting lineup if the Huskies do wind up playing a smaller lineup with Quincy Pondexter at the power forward spot.

And let’s hope Coach lets him loose a little more this season. Holiday shot so infrequently last year that we really don’t know what he’s capable of on the offensive end. I’m betting this year we find out Justin Holiday’s capable of quite a bit.