Nick Holmes shows Overland he can handle adversity
For the past couple years, it’s been all sunshine and rainbows for the Overland boys basketball program. Under the direction of coach Danny Fisher, the Trailblazers won the Class 5A title the past two seasons and boasted the best player in the state, De’Ron Davis, who’s now a freshman at Indiana.
But the graduation of Davis — as well as every other starter from last season’s championship team — left competitors wondering what kind of team Overland would field this season. Because of an all-new starting lineup, the Blazers weren’t ranked in The Denver Post preseason power rankings or in the CHSAANow preseason poll.
Into that void stepped guard Nick Holmes, who at the beginning of the season was primed to be the team’s leader in most statistical categories. Fisher called him Overland’s “go-to guy.”
But shortly before the season began, Holmes, who had been dealing with a nagging pain in his hip since September, went in for an X-ray to see what was wrong. The X-ray revealed a mass on his hip, and after a biopsy, doctors diagnosed Holmes with osteosarcoma, which is a type of bone cancer that begins in the cells that form bones and most often occurs in children and young adults.
Holmes’ season was over. Overland’s catalyst was out. Suddenly everything didn’t seem so sunny on East Jewell Avenue.
“It took a little time for the news to settle in and to get it through my mind what was actually going on,” Holmes said. “But I think I’ve accepted it now, and I’m handling it well.”
Holmes has remained upbeat. The tumor is operable — and an upcoming surgery should rid him of cancer because it was caught early, according to his doctors. And while channeling his strength and guidance from the bench, the Blazers came out with a statement win against Regis Jesuit in their season opener.
“Now I’m trying to look at things on the court from a coach’s perspective to see what Coach Danny sees, and then translate that vocally to the team,” Holmes said. “Because those young guys hearing something from me is a little different from hearing it from the coaches, and it might click with them quicker. So being that vocal presence is big, and I’m using that ability to help the team.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior had been getting looks from low-major Division I programs as well as Division II teams. Right now he’s focused on grinding through his recovery — and his upcoming surgery to remove the tumor — in order to land a college scholarship. That type of mind-set is keeping him optimistic and underscores why he still will be a major force for Overland this season despite being sidelined.
“His steadiness and his maturity is huge — and honestly, he’s just kind of a reality check for all of us when we walk in the gym every day and we see Nick smiling and bouncing around considering what he’s dealing with,” Fisher said. “The time we have is special, and every day matters, and he helps us further dive into our mantra of ‘respect the process.’ ”
Daijon Smith, Tucson Redding, Goy Wang, Stephen Hayes and Laolu Oke will all be key this season in the wake of Holmes’ absence as the Blazers navigate through the difficult Centennial League.
But Holmes and Co. welcome all challenges — on the court and off.
“There’s a lot of adversity we have to face with everybody thinking that we can’t do certain things because of who we graduated and me being out,” Holmes said. “So facing the adversity and working hard every day is important, because our mentality will take us as far as we want to go.” Kyle Newman: 303-954-1773 email@example.com or @KyleNewmanDP