Holmes and CUA have been a perfect fit together
Few things bring Shawn Holmes more enjoyment than playing the
game of basketball. It’s easy to see how much fun the
Baltimore native has when he’s on the court, making his way
past defenders with relative ease or setting up teammates for
another basket. Blessed with terrific speed and athleticism,
Holmes’ on-court ability often leaves people with a smile on
their face, especially the ones who have been there for his entire
When Holmes was only three years old, his father passed away, meaning his mother would be the one to raise Shawn. She was hardly alone though, as James and Patsy Holmes, Shawn’s grandparents, immediately stepped in and provided any type of support they could.
“My mother was on the younger side when I was born, so my grandmother did a lot of looking after me,” Holmes explains. “My grandfather was the man of the house and between the two of them, my grandparents were the ones who really helped shape me into the man I am today.”
One particular moment between Shawn and his grandmother took place when Holmes was in eighth grade, but it helped to put him on the path he is currently on.
“My grandmother asked me what I wanted to do when I get older, because she knew I needed a backup plan after basketball,” Shawn explains. “So I said I like money, and she said I should consider accounting.” Simple enough, Holmes thought. Fast-forward to today, and Holmes is on his way to earning an accounting degree from The Catholic University of America.
Before heading to CUA however, Holmes needed to decide which college he would attend. After playing three years of varsity basketball for one of the strongest Catholic high schools in the Baltimore area (Calvert Hall College High School), college coaches like CUA’s Steve Howes knew Holmes would be an impact player on the next level.
“I was impressed with the passion Shawn played with,” Howes says. “He played in big games in high school on a night-in, night-out basis, so I knew he would be prepared to make an impact from the start. The thing that has been most enjoyable to me though, has been the tremendous growth Shawn has gone through during his four years at Catholic University.”
“Coach Howes has been with me since the summer before my senior year of high school,” Holmes explains. “He’s someone I can simply go to and talk to about anything, on the court or off. He’s helped me in my development going from being a boy when I got here to becoming a man.”
In addition to his relationship with Howes, Holmes also liked the fact that CUA offered a top-notch education and was close enough to home that his family could see him play often. “No other school offered the combination of academics, a strong coaching staff and the sense of family that CUA did,” Holmes says. “I knew it was the university for me.”
Holmes started 10 games as a freshman and then moved into the starting lineup full-time as a sophomore. As a junior, he earned All-Landmark Conference recognition after averaging a team-high 14.7 points and 3.5 assists per game.
Even with all the success Holmes had attained, Howes knew he could get more from his soon-to-be senior. “I know Shawn has aspirations to play overseas following college,” Howes explains. “But for him to fulfill that goal, I thought he needed to change his offseason training. I thought he really needed to push himself in order to get to the next level”
Howes continues, “There was one particular Friday evening during the spring semester when the entire building was empty and I was getting ready to go home. As I walked downstairs, I could hear a ball bouncing in the gym, and by the time I made it down, Shawn was headed for the water fountain, dripping with sweat from head to toe. It was at that moment I knew he was on a mission.”
The numbers prove it. Holmes is averaging a career-best 16.2 points this season, having scored in double figures 17 times with a high of 27 vs. Randolph-Macon. One of those double figure scoring games came in the championship of CUA’s own holiday tournament in a win over Husson.
Late in the first half, Holmes rose for a 3-pointer from near the top of the key, as he has done plenty of times throughout his career. This particular time had a special outcome though, and the large throng of Holmes supporters let the DuFour Center crowd know it.
Holmes had scored the 1,000th point of his career, becoming only the 39th men’s basketball player in The Catholic University of America’s history to accomplish this feat. “I knew I needed eight points going in, but I lost count once the game started,” Holmes admits. “And then after I hit that shot, I could hear people screaming in the crowd so I figured that must have been it.”
If it seems like Holmes is brushing the achievement aside, it’s because he is. Along with fellow seniors Nate Koenig and Chris Kearney, the Cardinals have larger goals for their final season.
“We’re trying to win a championship and get to the NCAA Tournament,” Holmes emphatically states. “Nate and Chris, those are my guys. We want to leave our mark on this program. There were nine of us as freshmen, now there are just the three of us. It’s gone by in a flash, but it’s not over yet.”
Despite living nearly an hour from CUA’s campus, Holmes’ grandparents were in attendance that day when their grandson connected on his historic basket. They try and make it to as many of Shawn’s games as they can, home and away.
It’s this type of support that Howes has seen from Holmes’ family since the day he first met them. “I really enjoy my relationship with Shawn’s family because they are very special people. During the recruiting process, Shawn was on the quiet side, but I was able to speak with his grandmother quite a bit and really got to know her.”
Howes continues, “Shawn’s grandparents are so special to him in terms of what they’ve done for him, and so I let them know that I would do anything I could to help Shawn along the path to becoming a man; I would play my part. I take that obligation very seriously with each of the young men in our program.”
“My family loves Coach Howes and he loves my family,” Holmes says. “He has called my family in the past just to check in and see how they are doing. That’s the type of relationship they have developed.”
Now that he’s a senior, Holmes sees himself offering words of wisdom and guidance to his younger teammates, including freshman Kyle Phanord.
“Shawn has made my transition to college very easy because he constantly teaches the little things that he learned throughout his basketball career, such as receiving a pass with two hands or calling for the ball at all times and being vocal,” Phanord explains.
“He is arguably one of the best guards in the country, so I consider myself privileged as a freshman to be under Shawn's wing and have the opportunity to pick his brain everyday in practice and mimic my game after his. Shawn is the epitome of a role model that I'm grateful to have.”
“I see myself in more of a mentoring role this year,” Holmes admits. “I feel like I have always been a leader on the team, but my role has changed this season.”
“The offseason work that Shawn put in gave him the confidence to be the type of leader he is this season,” Howes explains. “My new assistant coaches have said they think Shawn is a completely different player than the one they saw on tape from last season, and that’s a testament to his work ethic and maturity.”
Phanord echoes those sentiments, “Shawn leads by example in practice. You can always count on him to go hard in every drill that we do. He sets a high standard of what practice should be like everyday. Every great team has a great leader, and Shawn has filled that role for us.”
While Holmes does envision playing overseas in the future, he also plans on becoming a certified public accountant (CPA). He says walking across the stage later this year to accept his diploma will be a big achievement. “A lot of people helped me accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself. It’s definitely going to make my grandmother proud,” he says with a smile.
“It’s been a lot of fun to watch how Shawn has developed throughout his four years,” Howes explains. “He’s paid very close attention to detail and has been a tremendous asset to our program. People want to be around Shawn, they rally around him. He’s a special, special person, and I’ll miss him a great deal on a personal level.”