Following a rare double-figure scoring effort last season, Washington small forward Justin Holiday was succinct.
Knowing his primary presence was for defense, quiet leadership and calm, Holiday assessed his 10-point performance. “I don’t want to be a stiff out there on offense.”
Saturday afternoon in Hec Edmundson Pavilion, the staples were the same for Holiday. Defense, rebound, defense, rebound. He’s a quiet, methodical leader. Fancies himself a skilled dancer, big laugher and full brother to teammates. He can also replace stiff with scorer.
Holiday dropped 17 first-half points during Washington’s (5-2) 108-79 rumble past Texas Tech, its second consecutive win. He finished with a career-high 20 points, making a career-high four 3-pointers as punishment for Texas Tech leaving him open.
Holiday has scored in double figures each game this season. He continues with the deflections, block and boards, but his 3-point shooting has been exceptional. Holiday also enjoys employment around the elbows, displaying his midrange skill.
The senior co-captain works with spindly pogo sticks from the waist down. Yet his legs were the issue, not the answer, much of last year. His summertime sports hernia surgery in 2009 slowed all-around progress, including that of his resurrected jumper.
There was a chance Holiday could have been on the opposite sideline Saturday. When Bob Knight ran the Texas Tech program, he pursued Holiday. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was after another Holiday.
He was in pursuit of Jrue, the younger of the Holiday brothers, who opted for UCLA then was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers a year later. Romar told Justin and his family there would be no package deal. If Justin received a scholarship, it would not be to lure his brother.
Romar said he saw a Michael Cooper-type player. Stopper, opportunistic scorer, smart, winner.
The key for Holiday is his springs are second to his brain. Holiday’s basketball smarts extend from knowing where to be on the court. They are most exemplified by his sense of what is proper to win. Does he think he could have scored more in prior seasons? Of course. Why didn’t he? Not his job.
“In the past, we had (Jon) Brockman and Quincy (Pondexter),” Holiday said. “It wasn’t really for me to go out there and do things like that.”
This year it is, though within the flow. There are no flares on the opposition’s scout about Holiday’s shooting. That could change soon.
For now, Holiday is evolving into another four-year benefactor at Washington, like his previously cited mates Brockman and Pondexter. Those two came out of high school with shine already attached to their names. Holiday is beginning to sparkle enough that scouts in Maui projected him as a second-round pick.
He may reach every player’s ambition, a shot at the league, thanks to a methodical, proper approach. A true reward.
“It’s great so see him have the kind of success he’s having because he’s right,” Romar said. “He plays basketball for the right reasons.”
The results were on display Saturday.