By Dalton Pool
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
University of Texas freshman Demarcus Holland has been earning more playing time as the season has progressed. He has consistently shown the ability to be a solid perimeter defender all year. But lately, Holland has added to his game and his increased confidence has led to an expanded role with the Longhorns.
In the Feb. 9 home loss to No. 22/24 Oklahoma State, the 6-2, 170-pound guard from Garland, Texas (Naaman Forest HS) showed glimpses of why Texas head coach Rick Barnes thinks so highly of him. Holland played a career-best 35 minutes and recorded a career-high 13 points while converting 5-of-11 field goals and 3-of-3 free throws. He added two assists and a steal against the Cowboys.
Holland showed off his quickness by getting into the lane multiple times and finishing at the rim. On one occasion, teammate and fellow freshman Javan Felix gathered the ball off an OSU turnover and threw it ahead to Holland, who caught the ball outside the three-point line with a defender trailing close behind. One dribble and two steps later, the trailing defender watched the deceptively athletic Holland throw down a one-handed dunk.
Barnes took notice of Holland's play and effort. He rewarded him with the start in UT's next game on Feb. 13 against Iowa State, and Holland has remained in the starting lineup for the last four games entering Wednesday's home game against Oklahoma (Feb. 27).
Holland spent most of this season serving as a backup point guard to Felix out of necessity, even though Holland never played the point before coming to Texas. Due to UT's lack of depth at the position because of Myck Kabongo's 23-game NCAA suspension to start the year, Barnes and the UT coaching staff were forced to throw Holland into the proverbial fire.
Holland's effort on the defensive end combined with his overall athletic ability earned him additional time off the ball at the two-guard position. In each of UT's last seven contests entering Wednesday's home game against Oklahoma, Holland has seen at least 21 minutes of action.
"Demarcus is a great guy and a team player," said freshman forward Ioannis Papapetrou. "He's someone who is going to play hard every day, be unselfish and only care about helping the team win. His work ethic is amazing. Demarcus really works hard every day. He makes no exceptions and no excuses."
Coming into the season, the Texas coaching staff was not sure if Holland was going to get much playing time and considered redshirting him. However, after just one day of practice in summer workouts, Barnes was convinced Holland could contribute immediately.
"Coming in, we thought he might be a guy we would redshirt just because of his build." Barnes admitted recently. "But after the very first practice I knew, and I remember telling the other coaches, 'We can't redshirt him because we need his effort and intensity. This guy has to play.'
"What makes Demarcus so special is he knows how to play and make an impact on the game even when he doesn't have the ball in his hands," Barnes continued. "What he brings defensively is exactly what a coach wants all of his players to bring."
Holland's consistency, hard work and intensity has paid off. He now finds himself has a key contributor and emerging leader for a young Texas team. But Barnes knows Holland is capable of much more.
"The more you watch a guy like Demarcus Holland play, the more you realize he's a basketball player," Barnes said. "He has a good offensive skill set and can really shoot the ball. He hasn't proven it yet under the lights, but he's been working on it really hard all year. I know he can shoot it and score a lot of points for this team. He just needs to keep gaining confidence."