Dante Holmes' college career will unfold more than 1,000 miles away from his home, but there will be no shortage of Baltimore influences on the former St. Frances star at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Holmes, a two-time Baltimore Sun second-team All-Metro selection who signed with the Eagles on Friday, will play for a head coach who is Johns Hopkins' all-time leading scorer and an assistant who is considered one of Charm City's most accomplished point guards.
Andy Enfield, who landed the FGCU job after five seasons as an assistant at Florida State, scored 2,025 career points for the Blue Jays and finished his Hopkins career by setting an NCAA career record for best free-throw percentage (92.5 percent). Kevin Norris, who will serve as Enfield's top assistant after one year at UNC-Wilmington, was a standout point guard at Lake Clifton before starring for four seasons at Miami.
Both coaches were instrumental in Holmes' decision to sign with Florida Gulf Coast, a Division I program in Fort Myers, Fla., that competes in the Atlantic Sun conference.
"The first thing that came to mind was loyalty," Holmes said Saturday. "The first day [Enfield] got the job, I got the first scholarship, the first offer."Holmes said he'll have the opportunity to compete for a starting job as a freshman. The Eagles coaches expect him to play the 1 and the 2.
“Dante has a chance to make a significant impact on our program,” Enfield said in a news release. “He brings toughness and an immediate defensive presence to our team. Offensively, his ability to attack the basket and draw fouls will be a benefit to our offensive scheme. Our coaching staff thinks Dante will have a special career at FGCU.”
After leading St. Frances to the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League crowns as a senior, Holmes committed to Marshall. When he came up short of NCAA qualifying standards, Holmes headed to Tampa for a prep year at Oldsmar Christian, where he averaged 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists. The 6-foot-3, 191-pound combo guard was rated the No. 17 prep school prospect by D1 Hoops Report.
“Dante’s competitiveness, toughness and ability to be a great on-the-ball defender are three ways he can make an early impact at FGCU,” Oldsmar Christian coach Ryan Pannone said in a news release. “He has a natural ability to score thanks to his size, strength and good pull-up jump shot game."
Holmes said his postgrad year was beneficial for his game, and it also opened him up to the possibility of staying in the Sunshine State for college. He didn't want to rush his college choice, however, and decided to take his time this summer to make sure Florida Gulf Coast was the right fit.
"I didn’t want to make the wrong decision. I just didn’t want to rush into another opportunity," Holmes said. "[My friends and family] were happy I was committing. They couldn’t wait for me to commit. ... They’re excited for me, to see me leave and step on a college basketball court."
Holmes is scheduled to leave Baltimore for Florida in less than two weeks. He can't wait to be part of something new at FGCU.
"I’m ready," Holmes said. "I’m excited to see what college is like, see how the first year is going to be, how different it is from high school and AAU basketball. … Whatever it takes for us to win, I’m willing to do."
Baltimore Sun photo of Dante Holmes by Gene Sweeney Jr. / Jan. 22, 2010