Feb. 7, 2010
By Alexandra Davis
GoHuskies.com contributing writer
SEATTLE - At 6-foot-6, with a wing span that could stretch the width of 520, Justin Holiday, a.k.a. "The Fireman", has proven himself as an indispensible defensive spark for the Husky basketball team in this his junior season.
Proof of his importance can be seen by re-watching the pair of 17-point Husky losses that occurred in Arizona when Holiday did not play, and then watching this past weekend when he stifled the same two team's best players in the return game at Bank of America Arena. Although his numbers may not pop off the stat sheet like that of Quincy Pondexter's or Isaiah Thomas', The Fireman has found a niche in the mold of former Husky great Bobby Jones - the prototypical glue guy.
He does the little things that count on the court, and this season he is out to prove it. So far, he has appeared in all but those two Arizona games, and recently was inserted into the starting lineup against Stanford on January 14th.
"That was a dream to start in college," Holiday said, "I was very happy to start and be able to come out and do that," His energy fueled tenacious defense, and his precise passing and movement created better spacing and motion on offense.
Although any fan can recognize that Holiday has a well-rounded game, it is his defense that earned him the nickname "The Fireman." The name was given to him by former Husky point guard Justin Dentmon, because of his ability to quickly change and disrupt the other team's offense. Many times this includes the job of being assigned to defend the top player for the other team. As Holiday put it, "If somebody comes right up the lane, I'm going to block them or stop those easy buckets. It's about being able to put out fires and I guess I do that well."
Coming from Chatsworth, Calif., the deciding factor for Holiday on choosing attending Washington was the coaches and the program Coach Romar has built. "I've always thought Coach Romar was a cool guy," says Holiday, "because you can sit down and talk to him like he is one of your friends. When it comes to basketball, he means business."
Talent runs in the family, as his younger brother, Jrue, who played his freshman season at UCLA last year, now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers after being a first-round draft choice in June. Justin and Jrue were a dynamic duo in high school at Campbell Hall in North Hollywood, Calif, where Justin won two state championships and was listed as No. 23 in the Best in the West poll coming out of high school.
At the college level, the two faced each other twice last year, splitting victories. "It was fun," Justin said about playing his sibling, "even if I was playing against him, I knew I had his support. I am glad that he is able to move on."
If it's not apparent by his play on the court, the junior forward does not possess a selfish attitude - the team's success is his success. "If we're able to stop the other teams defensively and play as a team on offense, then we'll be fine. We'll be able to compete with anybody and come out and win."
"The Pac-10 is tough this year because we have everybody on our backs here at Washington," he continued. "So everyone is going to come out and play as hard as they can."
Holiday has the mindset to make things happen this season. After winning the Pac-10 championship last year, through his determination and aggressive play, he is ready for another one. "Oh that felt good," he said about the 2009 Pac-10 title. "That's something I want to do again. And hopefully we can take care of that."