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Season Preview: CHD sits down with St. Mary’s G Stephen Holt

 Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with St. Mary’s G Stephen Holt about setting a school record in his very 1st game. 

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You have five seniors and four juniors on your roster, how big a factor do you think your team’s experience will be this season? It is going to be a big factor: Coach Randy Bennett has always stressed that we are only as good as our senior leadership. Having nine players back from an NCAA tourney team gives us a lot of depth.

You lost Matthew Dellavedova to graduation, who led your team in a bunch of different stat categories last year.  What made him such a great player, and how will your team be able to fill the void left by his departure? I learned a lot from Delly over the past few years. He could score and was very competitive.  He was such a great leader both on and off the court and one of the hardest working players I have ever played with. It will not be all on my shoulders as the PG.  Our whole senior class will have to lead together.

You play eight of your first nine games at home before heading to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic.  How big of a home-court advantage do you have at the McKeon Pavilion, and how excited are you to spend Christmas in Hawaii? We get great support from our community and our students are cheering really loud right on top of the court, which gives us a lot of juice to go out there each and every night. We have some quality non-conference games before we head west, but I am very excited to go to Hawaii!

What are your expectations for the upcoming season? Our expectations are the same every year: we want to win another WCC tourney and be the first St. Mary’s team to get back to the NCAA tourney for the third year in a row. We would like to win 25 games again, and if we play the way that we are capable of we will accomplish our goals.

In your first career game you set a school record with nine steals in 23 minutes in a win over the College of Idaho.  You finished your freshman year by leading the WCC with 1.8 SPG despite only starting 7 games.  What is your secret for playing great defense? Part of it is anticipation and taking a calculated risk. That was my main focus as a freshman: to get stops and steals that led to easy baskets for my teammates. I want to be the best defender I can be.

In the 2011 NIT you had 6 PTS/5 STL but Justin Greene made a go-ahead layup with 3 seconds left before Mickey McConnell missed an open layup at the buzzer in a 1-PT win by Kent State: where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? It is definitely in the top-5. It stung to miss out on making the NCAA tourney, but the NIT loss left a sour taste in my mouth, so we set our goals even higher the next year and used that as motivation.

In January 2012 you just missed getting the 1st triple-double in school history with 11 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in a win over San Francisco, did you know how close you were, and where does that rank among the best all-around games of your career? I had no idea that I was one rebound away: I actually had a chance to grab a rebound with two minutes left but I let a teammate take it. It is one of my top-three performances in terms of a complete game offensively. I would love to get a triple-double this year.

In 2012 you led the WCC in three point percentage during conference play.  What is the key to making shots from behind the arc? It is a combination of things: my teammates trust me in the offense and my coach gives me a green light to hunt threes. I also put in extra work outside of practice. I stick to my pre-game shooting routine and if I have a bad stretch then my teammates will pick me up so that I only have to worry about my next shot.

In the 2013 NCAA tourney you scored two points in a two point loss to Memphis.  What did you learn from that game that you think can help you this year? I learned a ton from that game: I wish we could have it back. I struggled on offense but our defense was outstanding, which I think can carry over into this year. There is a mental toughness aspect to the game: if your shot is not going in then you have to work even harder on defense.

Your father Greg played basketball at Portland, who is the best athlete in the family, and do you credit at least some of your success to genetics? I have always been humble…but I think I was the best athlete in the family. My dad could shoot the ball and has been my mentor since day one. I credit him and the rest of my family for how far I have come, as well as all the coaches I have ever had.

JonTeitel