Jan. 21, 2013
By Jon Cooper
The expression “being Wally Pipped” can be one of the cruelest in sports. “Can be” being the key words here.
We’ll get back to that in a moment. First a brief history lesson.
Wally Pipp was the first baseman for the New York Yankees in the early 1920s, who, on June 2, 1925, took a day off — legend has it for a really bad headache, although the more plausible reason was that Manager Miller Huggins was shaking up the struggling lineup. Pipp was replaced by a youngster named Lou Gehrig, who was yet known as “The Iron Horse,” but beginning that day would earn the nickname as he’d start a streak of playing in the next 2,130 games. Pipp would be traded to Cincinnati. (NFL fans may soon coin a similar phrase in being “Alex Smithed,” but that’s another story.)
Kammeon Holsey has seen his fate parallel Wally Pipp (or Alex Smith) this season, as, after starting all 31 games last season, he sat out a week during the preseason training period after suffering a high-ankle sprain then lost his starting spot to freshman Robert Carter, Jr.
But there is a big difference and that’s where the key words “CAN be” come in. While Pipp (and soon, probably Smith) needed to go to elsewhere to be productive, Holsey isn’t going anywhere. He simply adjusted, and has remained a productive and important part of the Georgia Tech puzzle.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game against North Carolina at the Dean Smith Center, the redshirt junior is fourth on the team in scoring (8.7 ppg), is third in rebounding (4.8 rpg), and is fourth in field goals made (53, one behind third-place Mfon Udofia) in his role as sixth man. He’s done this despite ranking sixth on the team in minutes, at 18.9 mpg.
“He’s done a great job,” said head coach Brian Gregory. “He’s just an energy guy. He knows he’s going to get his minutes, he knows he’s going to get his touches and he knows he’s going to get his shots. So nothing has really changed in that.”
Except maybe the economy with which Holsey has played. While it can be a difficult going from starter to coming off the bench, the 6-8, 231-pound power forward has had little difficulty making the adjustment. To him, it’s a matter of playing the game, being positive and being a good teammate.
“It’s not easy coming off the bench but I just concentrate on staying positive knowing that the team needs me and knowing that I’m a big part of the team and it’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about the team and me coming in an performing the best I can.”
Holsey is shooting 56.0 percent on the season, and has even raised his free throw shooting to a respectable 66.0 percent. That’s up 133 points from last season and 176 from his first full season. Until the last three games, he shot below 50 percent only two games all season long, including having a 7-for-10 night against The Citadel and a 6-for-10 night against California.
He’s found that sitting early on can not only help him get a read on the flow of the game, but also help him be a leader to his teammates.
Getting the opportunity to observe the start of the game has helped him get a good read on the flow of the game and has allowed him to jump right in.
“When you’re on the bench the couple of minutes you get to see the opponent’s defense, how they’re doing on things that a teammate might not see that you can see,” he said. “You can tell them during a timeout and you can get them in the flow of the game better.”
Gregory would like to see Holsey start making some more waves as he did early in the season. While he’s seeing and understanding the game better, the power forward has reduced his role in the offense in the last three games, having taken only 17 shots and, perhaps more telling, having gone to the foul line only twice. He hasn’t attempted a free throw in the last two games. That’s a trend Gregory wants to see change.
“We need Kam back to being Kam,” he said. “Being aggressive, scoring, not over-analyzing the post moves, just going to the basket. He’s done a great job in the past in that and we need that back. We need him rebounding the ball better.”
Holsey did do a better job of crashing the boards in the last game, grabbing eight, one more than he had in the previous two games and doubling his total in ACC play. He’s looking forward to picking it up offensively — and having the team pick it up as well — this week in Chapel Hill.
“We’re capable of playing better,” he said. “We have to go in and play with high energy, at a high level and play our best basketball.”