Holmes Emerges for the Hornets as a Sophomore
After playing JV as a freshman, BJ Holmes entered his sophomore year looking to carve out a varsity role with the Branford boys’ basketball team. BJ accomplished his goal by earning a spot as the starting varsity point guard for the Hornets, who are in the midst of an excellent season with 18 victories thus far.
BJ started shooting hoops in Branford’s youth program in 3rd grade. All of BJ’s friends were playing basketball, so he wanted to join the league. BJ’s father Scott had been around the sport his whole life and had friends who played at the professional level. As BJ started competing, his father passed his love for the game down to him.
“He’s from New York, and he has been around the game for a long time. He knows a lot of basketball players and grew up with some people that played overseas and in the NBA,” says BJ of his dad. “He has been around it for a while and passed it on to me.”
In addition to playing rec through 8th grade, BJ signed up for Branford’s travel league as a 4th-grader. He then began playing AAU for Hamden Hall in 6th grade and competed at the rec, travel and AAU levels for a few years.
Even with all of his experience, BJ’s freshman year at Branford opened his eyes to the challenges of high school basketball. As a starter for the JV team, BJ had to get used to the speed and intensity of the game while playing at a more-competitive level in a new program.
“It was completely different. It was a different coaching staff and different players,” BJ says. “The speed of the game was way faster. The competition was better.”
Entering his sophomore season, BJ had worked hard during the summer to prove that he deserved a varsity role. BJ felt comfortable practicing with the varsity squad and, on Dec. 28, he got his first start when Branford played Lyman Hall.
As the season went on, BJ’s coaches started trusting him more, giving him a boost of confidence. Now, as the Hornets get ready to play in states, they’re doing so with BJ at the point guard position.
“I came in this season ready to put in the hard work. The coaches didn’t know what kind of player I was going to be,” says BJ. “The first couple of practices with the varsity team went well. They saw that I was ready, and they told me my role. It took off from there.”
After seeing BJ’s progression between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Head Coach Chris Burnham feels confident with him being a playmaker in Branford’s offense. Burnham says that BJ has become a leader on the court for the Hornets.
“BJ has grown tremendously this year. His maturity and readiness to commit came through day one of practice,” Burnham says. “BJ has really stepped up and grown as a leader in the last few weeks as we put him into a starting role. I enjoy the opportunity to coach him and look forward to his continued growth over the next two years.”
BJ has been playing point guard throughout his basketball career. He likes being a floor general and giving his offense the best opportunity to score. At 5 feet, 4 inches, BJ realizes that opponents may underestimate him when he steps on the court, but he simply uses that as motivation.
As Coach Burnham put it, “He may be small in stature, but he is big in heart.”
“With my height, it just motivates me to be better at what I do. I get on the court and people don’t really expect me to do much,” says BJ. “Watching a lot of basketball growing up, not everybody is 6 feet tall. It made me want to be the best that I can on the court.”
BJ feels proud about the improvements that he’s made during the past two seasons. The sophomore credits Branford’s coaching staff for having faith in him and helping him believe he good he could be. Now, as the Hornets open play in states, BJ is focused on helping his team win the Division IV title.
“We’re 18-4 right now. We’re doing great, and it’s a big position for me,” BJ says. “It’s a team thing. We all put in effort, and it shows on the court.”