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Game is a Beach for U17 Men’s National Team Forward Ron Holland

  • Author:
    Drew Silverman, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Jul 3, 2022

Years from now, Ron Holland, a member of the USA Basketball Men’s U17 National Team, may not remember the precise details of the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup.

He’ll never forget the beach.

“Man, I had never been to a beach before,” Holland said. “I definitely had to check it out.”

He had never seen a beach?

“Never,” he confirmed. “I’m a Texas boy. But you know I had to walk out there as soon as I could. I just stood in the middle of the sand and looked around. I took it all in.”

Once off the beach in southern Spain, Holland and his 11 teammates will go after a sixth consecutive gold medal in a tournament that has featured a 38-game U.S. winning streak. The U17 World Cup takes place July 2-10 in Malaga, Spain. The U.S. opened play Saturday with a win against Lebanon.

At the age of 16, Holland already is a USA Basketball veteran with international memories.

The native of Duncanville, Texas, was a key member of the USA Basketball 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship squad last summer. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged team highs of 19.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while helping the U.S. capture the gold medal in Xalapa, Mexico.

“My U16 experience was great,” Holland said. “I got to represent my country in something I enjoy doing — playing basketball. I had fun, I put on the USA jersey for my city, my town and my country. And I did everything I could to make sure we went home with that gold medal.”

Holland was named to the all-tournament team after scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the gold-medal game — a 90-75 triumph over Argentina. He is eager to take home another gold medal in Spain, and he’s been clear with his new teammates about what it will take.

“I told everyone to be ready for physicality,” he said. “I told them to be ready for the whole world against us.”

As one of four returning players from the U16 squad, Holland has embraced his role as a leader. He likes the look of the team so far, calling the group “versatile” and “deep,” adding that it’s a group of guys who get along together.

Holland pays close attention to the details of the game.

“I’ve put more work into having a consistent shot and I’ve worked on my ball-handling, but overall I’ve put a lot of focus on communication,” he said. “The biggest part of being a leader is communication. So I’ve focused on that and on just continuing to do all the little things I do — just never giving up on a play, making a great effort and making winning plays.”

Holland acknowledges that while hard work and hustle were always part of his repertoire, the core components of the sport have taken a little longer to come together.

“I was not always the most skilled growing up,” Holland said. “I didn’t have a whole lot of skill, just played harder. But I just had to get in the gym and put in the work because the older you get, everybody plays hard. So it’s the skills that set you apart.”

With an eye to the future, Holland has narrowed his college options to four schools (Kentucky, Arkansas, UCLA and Texas) and the NBA G League. He expects to make his decision this fall.

He has bigger aspirations after that.

“I play for my family,” Holland said. “I’m not saying we live a bad lifestyle, but I know that I could change our lifestyle. My mom, my dad, my sister, I could let them put their feet up. I want them to enjoy the rest of their life.”

First, though, comes the FIBA U17 World Cup, beginning this weekend. The U.S. has never lost a game in the tournament, going a perfect 37-0 since the event began in 2010.

Holland doesn’t see that as extra pressure.

“No pressure on us. We got this,” said Holland, who added he is particularly appreciative of the opportunity. “Not too many 16- or 17-year-olds get to say they’ve done this. They pick 12 of us to step out of the country and go for a gold medal. It’s great exposure for us. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to do it.”

Drew Silverman is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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