Chicago State's David Holston is a 'little package of dynamite'
Chicago State guard David Holston is third in the nation in scoring (26.4 ppg)
Holston doesn't get much publicity because Chicago State is an independent
At 10-8, Chicago State is searching for its first winning record in Divsion I
Stephen Curry has played in front of packed houses at Madison Square Garden and Cameron Indoor Stadium and has been on national television several times this year. David Holston has played in front of thousands of empty seats every night with nary a television camera to be found.
Yet Curry and Holston have one remarkable thing in common -- they both have a chance to win the national scoring title.
Holston is currently third at 26.4 points per game, trailing only Curry (28.5) and Lester Hudson of UT-Martin (27.4). Holston, playing for independent Chicago State, already has nine 30-plus point games and is shooting 39.1 percent from three.
What's even more remarkable about Holston is he stands just 5-foot-8 and weighs 160 pounds. When Chicago State coach Benjy Taylor invited one of his former Richmond teammates to watch his star player, it confirmed the same thing that Taylor's seen all along: Holston is much bigger than his height on paper.
"When he first saw David, he said, 'He's little,'" Taylor recalls. "I told him, 'When it gets to be 7 o'clock and they tip that ball, he gets big really, really quick."
How does he do it? Quickness is probably Holston's biggest asset, but Taylor says it doesn't end there. Holston can nail the three, finish at the basket, and is equally adept at driving toward the baseline or to the middle of the lane.
Defensively, Chicago State plays primarily man-to-man, and Holston tries to pressure his defender as much as he can, and he gets plenty of help when opponents try to post him up. Once the ball is in his hands, he bolts up the floor.
"He's a little package of dynamite," says Bethune-Cookman coach Clifford Reed, who saw Holston score 34 points and dish out 10 assists in a 79-64 Chicago State win in November. "He has a good feel for the game and a very quick release. When I watched him play on film against Marquette, he was the best player on the floor. He has a very high skill level."
He may have a high skill level, but he doesn't get much of publicity. A big part of Holston's anonymity is where he plays: Chicago State is an independent, waiting to join the newly formed Great West Conference next season. The Cougars have a dismal basketball history, failing to post a winning record since entering Division I in 1984. Chicago State left the Mid-Continent Conference in 2006 and has been living the difficult life of an independent ever since.
One year after leaving the MCC, Taylor was hired to rescue the program. Holston was one of four players on the roster when Taylor was hired in April 2007, and "none of them were going to class," according to Taylor. The former Tulane assistant brought in nine new players and established some guidelines in order to restore some order.
"I put my foot down and ruffled some feathers, but they all bought in and are on pace to graduate," Taylor said.
Holston admits he let his academics slide in his first two years, and credits Taylor for putting him on track to graduate in May. He also credits Taylor for his rapid rise on the court, showing him how to be a leader instead of just a scorer.
Holston averaged 13.4 and 15.6 points in his first two seasons, but after moving from shooting guard to point guard when Taylor arrived his average jumped to 23.1 as a junior and 26.4 this season. Holston still gets his teammates involved, however. Last week in a win against North Carolina Central, Holston had nine assists by halftime, and he's averaging 5.7 per game.
Not bad for a former walk-on who went to Chicago State only because a teammate from Avondale High (Pontiac, Mich.) had a scholarship there. Holston earned a scholarship after one season, then made the decision to stay through the conference and coaching changes.
The perseverance may pay off this year. In addition to challenging for the national scoring title, Holston may lead Chicago State to its first Division I winning record. The Cougars are 10-8 with 14 games remaining, nine of which are at home.
Holston says his teammates have talked about a winning record since practice started this year, and he saw signs right away that things may be different when the team traveled to Marquette for the second game of the season. Marquette beat Chicago State 106-87 in November, but it was then that Holston knew that this season would be different.
"Everybody on the team showed how badly they didn't want to lose," Holston said. "Even though we were down in the second half, we kept fighting. In the past years, there were times when we just gave up. This year, we just keep fighting."
Holston will keep fighting in the scoring race, even though his father has given him strict orders not to look at the numbers. Holston says he tries to watch Curry play as much as he can, but outscoring him is not his No. 1 priority.
"I just want to win," he says. "That's it."