Guard Jaren Holmes, who plays for St. Bonaventure in March, is thrilled to be in Ames and playing for Iowa State now. (Associated Press/David Zalubowski)
AMES — Jaren Holmes believed in himself.
Fresh out of high school, the 6-foot-4 guard just wanted to show the college basketball world what he could offer.
The problem is, no one in this world cared. Her tirelessly supportive mother, Gia, made up for that — and now Holmes is poised to shine for Iowa State after being traded from St. Bonaventure this summer.
“She kept me going no matter what,” said Holmes, who legally changed her last name two years ago to reflect hers. “Many times I was crying at night, trying to get through it and not really knowing where I was going to go, what I was going to do. She was there with me the whole time.
“I owe him everything.”
The first leg of Holmes’ journey took him from Romulus (Mich.) High School to Ranger (Texas) Community College. He had no Division I offers at the time. Once he finished a season at Ranger, he had a handful, but all at the middle-major level. Still, he wisely jumped at the chance to become a Bonnie.
“I don’t blame Ranger, but it’s a program you’re really going to have to work in,” said ISU head coach TJ Otzelberger. “He wasn’t known as one of the best domestic JUCOs where you get all of those things, so I think every step as Jaren continued to work and rise, more opportunities and more of those things came. presented to him.
“And what a valuable life lesson. (He had) the gratitude to keep working on things, so it’s evident with him every day.
Holmes, a transfer graduate, averaged 13.5 points, five rebounds and 3.6 assists last season at St. Bonaventure.
He played all 40 minutes of the Bonnies’ final game last season – and scored 15 points in that 84-77 loss to Xavier in the NIT semi-finals. It is therefore versatile and capable of supporting a heavy load.
“His leadership and his speech on the pitch are really great,” said ISU big man Robert Jones. “It’s really good to have a leader like that there.”
Holmes will likely be a big part of the Cyclones’ backcourt rotation this season. Gabe Kalscheur is the lone returning starter, but veteran replacement Caleb Grill, Temple graduate transfer Jeremiah Williams and real freshmen Eli King, Tamin Lipsey and Demarion Watson will also be looking to carve out minutes.
“They’re way ahead of what I was in freshman year in college,” Holmes said of King and Lipsey. “They take into account everything I have to say and what anyone else has to say to them. Like a newborn, they are ready to listen to anything. Eyes wide open.”
Holmes is wide-eyed at the start of his only season at Ames partly because of the journey to get there, but mostly because of the possibilities he sees in 2022-23.
The once-undesirable, but now key player considers playing for Iowa State a dream come true — and it’s a dream that may never have come true if not for his mother’s unwavering commitment.
“She was the one who instilled in me never to give up,” said Holmes, whose brother, William, was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth round of the 2018 baseball amateur draft. never gave up, being a single mother, raising two African American boys in a country like this.
“So traveling from baseball games to basketball games – and she did it all on a teacher’s salary. I never had to want everything. I give it everything.”
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