Jrue Holiday named Gatorade P.O.Y.


This article appeared on RiseMag.com.

Everybody wants a piece of Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.) Jrue Holiday. An opponent once told him, “Hey Jrue, I hate you. Can I have your wristband?” Holiday, of course, obliged.

“He gave it to him,” said Campbell Hall sophomore Aaron Curry. “That's how nice he is.”

Holiday is an accommodating guy. He signs every autograph, doles out wristbands and gives away just about every award he's ever received to some lucky kid.

So when Holiday was officially named 2007-08 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year during a ceremony in North Hollywood, Calif., on Wednesday, was there any chance he'd part ways with what is arguably the nation's most prestigious honor in high school sports?

“Most definitely not,” said a soft-spoken and smiling Holiday.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior combo guard led his team to a 113-12 record during his four-year varsity career, carrying the Vikings to a second consecutive California Interscholastic Federation Division IV state championship as a senior - the program's third crown in four years.

A two-time Gatorade California Boys Basketball Player of the Year, Holiday averaged 25.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4.4 steals and 2.4 blocks per game this season. He recorded 23 double-doubles and five triple-doubles in 36 games for Campbell Hall (31-5).

The kid was a quadruple-double waiting to happen. In a midseason showdown against South Atlanta (Atlanta, Ga.) and Derrick Favors, the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2009, Holiday exploded for 35 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists and nine steals.

He packed the stat sheet again in the Southern California Regional Division IV title game, scoring 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting and collecting 11 rebounds, nine assists and seven steals in a 76-45 victory against San Joaquin Memorial. Holiday then scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds despite battling foul trouble in the 83-61 state championship win over Saint Mary's.

“The one thing all the great players have, whether it's LeBron (James) or Michael (Jordan), is that they rise to the occasion,” said Dana Pump, co-founder of the California-based sports-consulting and club basketball firm Double Pump Basketball. “Jrue does that. He is a special, special player.”

Holiday is an invitee to both the 2008 McDonald's All-American Game and the Jordan Classic. An EA Sports second team All-American selection and PARADE third team All-American as a junior, Holiday was also selected to play in last summer's USA Basketball Youth Development Festival.

“In my opinion, the most talented overall player among the elite players in the country is Holiday,” said USA Basketball Junior Development Committee Chair Don Showalter. “I love the kid. I think he's a great teammate. He makes everybody else better. He's very coachable, he reacts so well to feedback, and his teammates just absolutely love him - and that's an important thing to note when you're talking about this level of talent.”

Holiday has maintained a B average in the classroom. A member of the school's gospel choir and the percussion section leader in Campbell Hall's orchestra, he also teaches basketball fundamentals to youth players in association with the American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer charity and raises funds to benefit cancer research through the Concern Foundation.

In addition to donating his time at Campbell Hall as a tour guide on Perspective Student Days and as team manager for the varsity girls' tennis squad, Holiday has also traveled to Japan as a youth ambassador on behalf of the Shepherd of the Hills Christian Church.

“It has been an honor to have Jrue Holiday play at Campbell Hall,” said Vikings head coach Terry Kelly. “Hopefully, I've helped him become a better player, but I know he has helped me become a better person.”

Rated the No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2008 by RISE, Holiday has signed with UCLA. He joins 2008 Pac-10 Freshman and Player of the Year Kevin Love (2006-07) and two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis (1996-97) as UCLA recruits to be named Gatorade National Boys Basketball Players of the Year.

Saying that Jrue Holiday was born to play basketball is actually a bit of an understatement. The son of former Arizona State standouts Shawn and Toya Holiday and younger brother of Washington freshman Justin Holiday, Jrue will become the fourth college basketball player in his immediate family.

“It was rough,” Holiday said of the one-on-one matchups with his older brother. “We'd fight all the time on the court. Off the court, I'm not really that physical. I played against my mom. She liked to post me up a lot. And I play against my dad. I just beat him last summer, but he came back and beat me, though. He's my favorite player. That's where I get my competitiveness from.”

The alma mater of actresses Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Campbell Hall has its share of stars wandering the hallways. Holiday earned his status on the basketball court from day one. He averaged 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a freshman, helping the Vikings to a perfect 32-0 record and the Division IV title.

A year later, his numbers ballooned to 22 points, 8.9 boards and 5.4 assists per contest as Campbell Hall reached the state quarterfinals. As a junior, the Vikings reclaimed the state title thanks to Holiday's 24.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and six assists per game.

Holiday is only the second player in Greater Los Angeles history to surpass 2,600 career points, finishing with 2,666 (trailing Mitchell Butler, who netted 2,682 points for Oakwood from 1986-89). Holiday passed eight-time NBA All-Star Jason Kidd to conclude his career as the state's 14th all-time leading scorer.

Holiday becomes the second boys' basketball player from California to receive national Gatorade honors, joining Davis. Selected from more than 556,000 high school boys' basketball players nationwide, Holiday is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special afternoon ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.

Three of the last four national winners - two-time honorees Greg Oden (2004-05 and 2005-06) and LeBron James (2001-02 and 2002-03) as well as Dwight Howard (2003-04) - were selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. The other? Love, who earned Pac-10 Freshman and Player of the Year honors for UCLA this year.

“It's an honor to hear that it's possible for me to be the No. 1 draft pick in the NBA,” said Holiday, who turns 18 on June 12. “Anything can happen. As long as I keep my head clear and hit the books, then God will take me to whatever heights I'm going to. I never really talked about being an NBA player or a college player. I just really like playing basketball.

“People would go out and play in the summer to try to earn scholarships,” added Holiday. “I really didn't care about it. I would just go out and play every game and leave it all out on the floor, and I guess I had the talent to get into a great college like UCLA.”

Quiet? Yes. Unassuming? Clearly. After all, it wasn't that long ago that the 17-year-old Southern California standout was one of those kids who grew up watching his heroes play basketball.

“Off the court, he might be quiet and mild,” said UCLA assistant coach Donnie Daniels. “On the court, he's an absolute killer.”

The Gatorade Player of the Year awards program recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court. The award distinguishes Holiday as the nation's best high school boys' basketball player in 2007-08.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls' volleyball, boys' and girls' cross country, boys' and girls' basketball, boys' and girls' soccer, baseball, softball, and boys' and girls' track & field, awarding one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by RISE, which works with top sports-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.