If East Coast basketball observers were unfamiliar with Dante' Holmes before, that likely changed on March 20.
Holmes exploded for a tournament-best 34 points, along with nine rebounds, to lead St. Frances to a 64-58 win over DeMatha in the semifinals of the Alhambra Catholic Invitational.
"My career is still to come, but as of right now, it was the game of my career," Holmes said. "I just wanted to win; do whatever it takes for my team to win that game. I wanted to win a championship for my coach, for me and the rest of the team as well."
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound combo guard followed that performance up with a game-high 18 in a finals loss to Gonzaga (D.C.). Later came a 23-point, five-rebound, four-steal outing in a nationally televised game against St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.) at the ESPN Rise Invitational.
Holmes was a consistent producer for St. Frances all season long, averaging 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals per game for the Baltimore Catholic League and MIAA A conference champs. But that late-season flurry took his recruitment to another level, according to Holmes' uncle, Carlos Green, a Panthers assistant.
"George Mason offered a scholarship from that [DeMatha] game," Green said. "It was just one of those statement games. He just used that to show [the recruiting rankers] that he's as good as everybody else."
Holmes, who also has offers from Virginia Commonwealth and Loyola, is fielding interest from Providence, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Miami, NC State, Florida State, Marquette and Temple. The Friars and Hokies have particularly stepped up their pursuit, Green said.
Virginia Tech's interest should come as no surprise. The player Holmes is most frequently compared to is former Towson Catholic standout Malcolm Delaney, a sophomore guard who finished second on the Hokies in scoring this season at 18 points per game.
"The first thing [Va. Tech coach] Seth Greenberg said [was that he liked Dante's] Baltimore toughness. He sees the Malcolm Delaney comparisons," Green said. "Me and Malcolm's father, Vince, are really good friends. That's kind of the measuring stick for [Dante'] as a local talent, with kind of the same build. ... So there are most definitely some similarities there. Malcolm's a great player."
Like Holmes, Delaney was a big-time producer for a BCL power who floated somewhat under the radar in the earlier stages of his recruitment. Their games are comparable as well.
"[College coaches] like his toughness," Green said. "[They like] that Baltimore toughness and his heart, his ability to slash to the basket. His jump shot is improving, and they like his mid-range game. The thing they talk most about is his toughness. He does so many things on the court. He kind of does a little bit of everything."
Holmes played in AAU tournaments this spring with Baltimore Assault and Boo Williams, which is based in Hampton, Va. Green said Holmes has been invited to elite camps at Virginia and Maryland, and visits to the Old Dominion state schools on his list are in the works.
While Holmes is still waiting on the high-major schools to step forward with scholarship offers, he remains confident that all will work out in the end.
"I mean I'm just patiently waiting," Holmes said. "I'm just putting in hard work in the gym and waiting my turn. All I can do is just work in the gym and the classroom. If it's meant to happen, then hopefully it's my turn now to get the looks that I want. ... But when it comes down in the end, I just want to get better than I was before last year. I just want to play ball and win."
Photo of Dante' Holmes by Patrick Smith / Special to The Baltimore Sun.
Click on the YouTube player for highlights of Holmes at the 2008 I-95 Elite Challenge.