By Mike Barber, Daily News-Record
A year ago, Kirby Dean fell in love with Luke Holloran’s basketball abilities. But Holloran spurned Dean’s overtures to play Division I-AA football at Virginia Military Institute.
Now, the two are going to give it a go.
Holloran, a former Broadway High School star, said Thursday he is transferring to Eastern Mennonite University this fall to play basketball for Dean’s fast-paced Royals.
“Out of high school, I was looking at it pretty hard,” Holloran said. “If I was going to play basketball anywhere in the ODAC, it was going to be there. I know how they play up there. I really like the style they play when I’ve gone up there and watched them. It all seemed right to me.”
The Massanutten District Player of the Year as a senior in 2007-08, Holloran averaged 13.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, topping the district in the first two categories and leading the Gobblers in all three.
“Obviously, we like his athleticism,” Dean said Thursday. “We recruited the heck out of him last year and we were kind of left standing at the altar. I told him, ‘When I was in high school, I never had a girl turn me down for a date. But if I did, I wouldn’t have asked her a second time. That should tell you how special you are. We’re courting you again.'” Read Dean’s coaching bio…
Out of high school, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Holloran signed to play football at VMI, a decision Holloran now said he regrets. He went through the fall with the Keydets, suffering a dislocated right shoulder and redshirting. He left VMI in the spring.
“I like football, but I guess I sort of figured out I didn’t like it enough to play on the college level,” Holloran said. “It takes up all your time. I wish I would have just taken advantage of playing basketball right out of high school.”
At EMU, Dean expects Holloran – who has all four years of eligibility remaining – to contribute right away.
“When I watched him in high school, he had flashes of brilliance,” Dean said. “But then there’d be some downtime in there too. I need those flashes to be closer together. You can’t be athletic and not play hard. If Luke will really focus and plays hard, he can be a difference-maker for us.”
EMU returns five of its top six scorers from last year, including its top four. That group is headlined by first-team all-conference selection George Johnson and second-team pick D.J. Hinson, both rising juniors.
They helped propel the Royals (15-11) to a fifth-place finish in the 11-team ODAC before losing in the second round of the conference tournament to Bridgewater. It was EMU’s first winning season since 1998-99 and its first winning ODAC season since 1997-98.
Dean took over the program after EMU went 3-22 in the 2002-03 season. But overall, the Royals’ record for six years under Dean isn’t much better than it was for the last six year’s of Tom Baker’s tenure. Dean is 60-91 overall (.397) and 34-71 in the ODAC (.324). In his final six seasons, Baker went 55-95 (.324) and 36-72 (.333).
The addition of Holloran – and the possible addition of former R.E. Lee High School star Eli Crawford – might be the boost Dean needs to make the Royals an ODAC contender. EMU will be looking for its first back-to-back winning seasons since going 16-9 in 1997-98 and 13-12 in 1998-99.
Crawford – who played at Central Florida Community College and Potomac State junior college – said Wednesday he hopes to enroll at EMU in the fall.
On Thursday, Dean said EMU has deposits – the Division III equivalent of letters of intent — from Holloran, former Charleston Southern player Martin Harrison and Christopher Dock Mennonite School’s Owen Longacre
Harrison is a 6-1 combo guard and longtime friend of Johnson’s. Dean said Harrison, who took classes at a Division II school in North Carolina but did not play basketball after leaving D-I Charleston Southern, plans to play two years for EMU. Harrison played his prep ball at Meadowbrook High School in Richmond.
The 6-6 Longacre is a power forward from outside of Philadelphia and is the younger brother of former Royals player Quincy Longacre.
A source said EMU has received verbal commitments from a pair of Skyline High School players: 6-3 forwards Andrew Thorne and Eric King.
Three local standouts have been invited to try out for the Royals by Dean. Broadway point guard Jonathan Leaman, Riverheads guard Cutter Chisnell and Stonewall Jackson guard Davey Scott will all attempt to make the EMU squad in the fall.