Of the Texas Longhorns’ core nine-man rotation, Jonathan Holmes serves as the lone senior leader. Since landing on the 40 Acres as a freshman during the 2011-12 season, Holmes has seen the entire landscape of the Horns’ roster change, and his role within the program has shifted accordingly.
He’s transformed from an undersized power forward that simply fit in to the guy expected to help hold Texas together in times of need, and he’s been successful in doing so at times with a few game winners under his belt. Now with 120 games as a Longhorn behind him, Holmes could quite realistically be staring down the barrel of the final five games of his collegiate basketball career.
If Holmes has any plans on assuring he sees a few extra games in a Texas jersey before hanging his shoes up, the 6’8" forward must return from his recent absence and start playing at the level that he’s capable of.
Jonathan Holmes maintains he feels fine post-concussion & says shots just aren't falling for him. pic.twitter.com/4NfArwT5qv— Matt Cotcher (@MLCotcher) February 21, 2015
Holmes recent digression began with the Longhorns’ loss to Oklahoma State six games ago, where he failed to get on the scoreboard before suffering a concussion after only 10 minutes of action. The concussion would keep Holmes out of Texas’ wins over Kansas State and TCU, but his efforts upon returning in the Longhorns’ last three games has been one those that make you wonder if any lingering issues from his most recent injury is hindering his ability to perform at a high level.
In Texas' last three games, where they beat Texas Tech and fell to Oklahoma and Iowa State, Holmes compiled a whopping total of 12 points, 21 rebounds and three assists. His six rebounds per game during this stretch are just shy of his season average of 6.5, but Holmes contributions on the offense end have been exceedingly limited.
Against Texas Tech, only five points on 1-5 shooting (1-2 from deep). Holmes hit 2-4 from the charity stripe in the Longhorns’ 56-41 victory, but hasn’t been to the line since. His five points on 2-9 from the field, including 1-6 from beyond the arc played a huge role in Texas coming up just short against the Sooners 71-69, especially when you consider he was heaving bad shots, which looked slightly improved by finally hitting a three in the final seconds of the game when the outcome was already decided. Much of the same came in the Longhorns’ loss to Iowa State, with Holmes adding only two points on 1-5 shooting (0-2 from the perimeter), along with six boards.
Despite how unfortunate the last 13 games have been for Texas, with the Horns’ dropping eight during this stretch, they’re still very alive in the NCAA Tournament hunt and have some tremendous opportunities to salvage their season with the upcoming schedule. They will see No. 23 West Virginia Tuesday in Morgantown, followed by No. 8 Kansas in Lawrence and No. 19 Baylor in Austin before concluding their season at home against Kansas State.
It could go without saying that Holmes presence in these games in an absolute must for Texas to be able to come out with some much-needed wins, as they’ll be the underdogs in each game except for their season finale. Texas has just as much of a chance as turning this season around at the latest possible point and making something special happen as they do of becoming another Rick Barnes coached club that’s done less with more.
He’s not their most talented player, but he’s the veteran leader with the eyes of the younger core looking to Holmes to rediscover his groove in a do-or-die portion of the Longhorns’ schedule. If he’s not able to shake this recent funk, the same trend of disappointing losses in must-win games for the Longhorns will likely follow suit.
What mark will Holmes leave on Texas with the last handful of games meaning so much to the landscape of basketball in Austin?