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‘Baby Giannis’: Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year drawing comparisons to reigning NBA MVP

Gatorade Arizona Boys Basketball Player of the Year DaRon Holmes has the talent and length for a Power 5 program, but it’s the junior’s character which sets him apart. (Courtesy: @DaRonagon/Twitter)

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (BVM) – When Tyrone Amundsen took over as the head boys basketball coach at Millennium High School three years ago, he met a freshman who he immediately knew he would have to build the program around.

That freshman was DaRon Holmes, and while it wasn’t his talent that initially enticed him to Amundsen, it was the hooper’s one-of-a-kind mentality. As an eighth grader, Amundsen said Holmes had a lot of work to do on his game despite arriving at Millennium as a skilled hooper.

But the unique intangibles Amundsen noticed on the first day of practice during Holmes’ freshman year made it clear that he was special.

“I knew from the beginning that I had to build my program at Millennium around DaRon as a freshman,” Amundsen said. “His character, likability, leadership, determination to work and be coached makes him who he is.

“He’s just different from your other four and five stars because of his character. I know there’s some really good kids out there, but DaRon is a ridiculously high-character kid.”

It’s “yes sir” and “no sir” from DaRon at all times, Amundsen said, but Holmes’ game has caught up to his high character over the years.

Following Holmes’ freshman season on the varsity squad, Amundsen said his staff could never get him out of the gym. The work ethic was met with a significant growth spurt that saw Holmes grow from 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-7 by his sophomore year.

Fast forward to the present and Holmes is a 6-foot-9 star who just led the Tigers to a 24-6 record and the Class 5A state championship game as a junior. The forward averaged 23.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 3.1 assists per game on his way to earning Gatorade Arizona Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors. An All-Arizona selection, he is also the MaxPreps Arizona Player of the Year and the ArizonaVarsity Class 5A Player of the Year.

It’s safe to say that Amundsen’s decision to place the program in the hands of a freshman was the right one.

Amundsen has been a Nike Elite basketball coach for the past 14 years and spent time around the top 2021 and 2022 prospects in the country at the Nike Elite 100 event last summer, so the third-year head coach is no stranger to talent.

 

Holmes models his game after a pair of NBA All-Stars. The first is Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam and the other is someone Amundsen said others call Holmes more than anything: “Baby Giannis”. With their length and ability to jump out of the gym, Holmes is being compared by many to reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“He’s got the length and he tries to dunk everything,” Amundsen said of Holmes. “His mid-range and three-pointer have gotten so much better and that’s really where Kansas and Arizona and others see that stuff and they’re like ‘Oh my gosh, this kid could be the real deal.’”

As Holmes looks ahead to his final prep basketball season, Amundsen said “Baby Giannis’” recruitment is still wide open. With recent offers from Oregon, Tennessee, Notre Dame and more, Holmes will have an array of options to continue honing in on his talent.

In line with his high-character, Amundsen said Holmes blows Division I coaches away with his humility and ability to show his personality through the phone. Holmes isn’t locked into a specific region he’d like to play in or type of program he’d like to play for, so Amundsen believes without a doubt that the Millennium star’s decision will come down to the best relationship with a coaching staff.

“A lot of the head coaches that are developing these relationships with DaRon and his family is really what’s going to help him make a decision,” Amundsen said. “He’s going to where the relationship is and where he’ll feel comfortable going into.”

Arizona, Marquette, Kansas and Loyola Marymount under new head coach Stan Johnson are all currently active in Holmes’ recruiting, according to his father. Wherever Holmes ends up, it’s safe to assume he’ll showcase his baby-Giannis-like length on a television in the near future.

Before then, Holmes has plans to take his game to a new level of competition for the 2020-21 season at Montverde Academy (FL). The Eagles have won four mythical high school national championships since head coach Kevin Boyle arrived in 2011 and had eight players ranked in the top 65 of their high school class on last season’s roster.

Montverde has produced NBA talent such as Ben Simmons and D’Angelo Russell, and Holmes just might be next in line.

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