Sophomore Jacques Holmes quietly turned heads as a freshman at Clinch County High School in south Georgia. Clinch County, home of less than 500 students and a part of the Class A-Public field, hasn’t won a state championship in basketball since the years of 1987 and 1989. A program that hasn’t seen that type of success in years, the Panthers aren’t one of the most publicized programs in the state, but after a freshman season which saw Holmes average 13.7 points per game and lead the Panthers in scoring, the playmaking guard hopes to put Clinch County back on the map.
Holmes was named HoopSeen Class-A Freshman of the Year after his play helped the Panthers increase their win total by four games and finish the season 9-11. For those who haven’t heard of Holmes yet or don’t know his style of play, Jacques or his nickname pronounced “Joc”, gave me the inside scoop.
“I like to push the tempo and penetrate the defense and get my big men open. I like to reward my big men for running. I pass a lot, but I’m a pretty good shooter,” explained Holmes. “I’m really an all-around player.”
To build on his rookie season success, Holmes stayed in the gym to fine tune his game.
“I played AAU. I did a lot of staying after school doing drills, just constantly working.”
Playing for a team out of Brunswick called Elite, Jacques is ready to translate his summer circuit progress into the high school season. Recalling how he felt about being named the Freshman of the Year, Holmes said, “It wasn’t really a surprise, but it was kind of. Coming in as a freshman I didn’t think I was going to start or get the minutes that I got, but I worked hard.”
Panthers On The Prowl
With its leading scorer another year older with a full-year of playing experience under his belt, Clinch County has high expectations this season to compete for a top seed in the region tournament and scrap for a state playoff berth. Holmes says that the team has put an emphasis on improving their defense and feels like their blend of size and speed can give opposing teams trouble.
Junior Jerrod Jones will be one of Clinch County’s leading scorers to compliment Holmes’ abilities. He averaged over 10 points and 6 rebounds a game while handing out nearly 3 assists per night.
“He’s a pretty good player. He’s very unselfish,” said Holmes of his teammate.
In the halfcourt offense, Holmes and Jones should thrive in Coach Terrence George’s five-out pass-and-cut offense. The constant movement and ball-screens allow Holmes to drive and dish or finish at the basket.
Hitting The Headlines
Playing at such a small school, I wondered what it was like and if it is difficult to get noticed by college scouts.
“It is kind of. If you’re not playing AAU down here or if you’re not getting out of the city to play ball, you can get recognized, but you got to be a great player.”
One great player that Jacques looks forward to matching up with is Tamarrion Terry of the defending three-time Region 2-A champion, Turner County (25-4, 16-0). At his forward position, Terry garnered All-State Honorable Mention after averaging 17.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest.
“I just watch film on him a lot…If we can just play good perimeter defense, him being 6’4”, it’s pretty hard to stop him, he’s pretty quick, but if we just play good perimeter defense on him we’ll be okay.”
Becoming A Leader
Coach George has taken the young Holmes under his wing and has helped mold him into the player he is now becoming.
“He’s taught me a lot of things. The main thing he’s taught me is how to deal with certain situations, game situations,” he said.
One part of the growing process has been being able to keep a level head during the rebuilding process that Clinch County has been undergoing. It has been a fight for the Panthers to reach .500.
“I get frustrated a little bit, but I know I can’t be frustrated. I know being the best player on the team I have to motivate my guys to just get better at the next practice and next game. Just go out and be better.”
Leadership is something he has taken serious and wants to improve on over the next three years of his career.
“I’m going to be a bigger leader this year; I should have been last year, but I didn’t know everything that I know now. I plan on being the biggest leader I can be.”