By Matt Nestor
It was easy on the surface to see a big step forward coming for the East E-Rabs.
For the first time in Coach Roy Sackmaster’s six years at the helm, he didn’t need to bring up any sophomores, which shows stability in the program.
He also has two three-year varsity players for the first time as well in Deontry Austin and Matt Mallon. On top of that, there are talented juniors in Javon Henderson, Steve McNease, C’Vontez Johnson and Darshwn Pumphrey-King, who played as sophomores.
All that mixed together is a winning cocktail. And the straw that is stirring the drink is senior newcomer Alonte Holliday.
“That’s the type of kid that can turn the program around and get you over the hump,” Sackmaster said of the senior. “So far, he’s done that for us. He’s been everything we’ve asked him to be.”
Holliday, who spent previous seasons at Guilford, has easy-to-point-to reasons for helping the team. He was named to the all-tournament team at the Boylan Thanksgiving Tournament, where East went 3-1. He is also averaging 14 points per game.
But more than that, despite this being his first year in the program, he is leading like a senior who has been around the program for years.
“We always talk about how consistent he comes to play,” Sackmaster said. “He plays hard every night. He comes to practice and plays hard every day. We’re reaping the benefits of him, and he’s having a good year so far.”
Against Harlem, Holliday stole the ball from Michael Proscia with East up 3 and hit two free throws to seal the game. Those two free throws came after only shooting 4 for 8 from the line before that.
The steal alone was a great play against a good ball handler who was having a good night shooting and could have tied the game. But the senior showed his smarts by, instead of running for a quick layup, pulled the ball out, ran a few more seconds off the clock and made Harlem come and foul him.
Little plays like that, and the intelligence to make them, is making the difference for the E-Rabs so far. And with the game on the line, Sackmaster has no problem trusting his new senior to make the right call.
“He has those intangibles where you just need somebody that is steady and rock solid,” he said. “He ended up being our best ball handler down the stretch there and being the most sure thing.”
From the Dec. 15-21, 2010 issue