Nick Holmes shows Overland he can han­dle ad­ver­sity

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle New­man

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 knew­man@den­ver­post.com or @KyleNew­manDP

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