STRASBURG -- Da’Neil Holliday isn’t a stat-sheet stuffer.
Rarely, if ever, will you see his name leading the list of scorers for Strasburg’s boys basketball team. Holliday will grab rebounds but he’s not likely to top that chart on a frequent basis either, and the same could be said for every major statistical category.
And yet Rams head coach Larry Fox, when speaking recently of his junior forward, said Strasburg goes as Holliday goes on the basketball court.
“I think he brings more to our team than he realizes,” Fox said before a loss to Warren County last week. “He’s one of those kids that just brings tons of energy that everyone else feeds off of, and at some point in the game, he gets everyone going with his energy. Every team needs a kid like him. He’s really a coach’s dream. He truly is because he does so many things well.”
That is, when he’s on the court.
Holliday said it’s accurate to call him an enforcer for the Rams, and when asked to describe his playing style on the court he replied, “Don’t get in my way.” A starting middle linebacker for the school’s football team, Holliday’s brand of basketball is a physical one, and it’s also one that gets him in foul trouble on a regular basis.
Fox said reining in Holliday’s “football mentality” on the court is a challenge for the coaching staff and for Holliday, who admits he’s been in foul trouble in each of Strasburg’s first seven games of the season.
Holliday, who stands at 5-foot-11 and was listed at 210 pounds before the start of football season, has been trying to find the right amount of physicality on the basketball court without going overboard, he said, but it remains a work in progress.
Last week’s loss to Warren County was a prime example. Holliday quickly showed off what he can bring to the court -- he found teammate Derek Fox along the baseline for a layup for the game’s opening bucket, then set a screen on the wing for Kamryn Pangle, who drove off it through the lane before finding Stephen Kloosterman for a short jumper on the Rams’ next possession – but he then committed two fouls in a span of 2 ½ minutes in the first period and sat out the final 10:23 of the first half.
“It’s been wearing on me a little bit,” Holliday said of the constant foul trouble. “I’ve been just thinking to myself ‘just don’t foul, don’t foul, don’t be as physical,’ but then I’ll just get in that mentality (to) just get after the ball or something and end up fouling somebody just being too physical.”
If Holliday can find the happy medium, the brutish style he brings to the court could be vital to the Rams.
“It’s something that we’re gonna need come postseason time, come district play,” Fox said of Holliday’s toughness. “We’re gonna need that presence where we’re gonna face teams -- Central’s gonna have some post players. (Assistant coach J.R.) Anderson went to scout East Rockingham (a fellow Region 2B member); they have some big kids. We’re gonna need him to learn how to stay on the court to help us be successful.”
It’s never a question of effort with Holliday. Fox, who has coached Holliday at every level of basketball since middle school, recalled a game against Clarke County during Holliday’s freshman season two years ago when he tried to save a loose ball and dove over the Eagles’ bench and ended up in the bleachers.
Hustle plays like that leave Fox raving about the impact Holliday can make and has made for the Rams. So too does Holliday’s leadership, and Fox said Holliday’s teammates follow him.
“I’m a leader and when I go, they go,” Holliday said of his role with the Rams. “I’m there to keep them up, and when they’re down, just talk to them.”
That’s the role that comes most naturally to him, he said, more so than the thought of him ever becoming a statistical powerhouse for the Rams on the basketball court.
“I really don’t look at stats at all,” said Holliday, who also replied “I have no clue” when asked about the most points he’s ever scored in a varsity basketball game. “I’m just there; I’m there for my teammates. They’re my main focus and like I said, whenever they’re down, I’m just there to help them, and us, just keep clicking.”
The Rams have had a hard time clicking on a consistent basis so far this season and dropped to 4-3 with last week’s loss to Warren County. Holliday said poor defense, made so by a lack of communication, has been Strasburg’s primary weakness.
Strasburg’s next chance to start building some consistency comes in today’s 7:15 p.m. game against Luray in the first round of the Ram Hardwood Classic.
“I feel like we need to slow down some and just talk because we’re all just moving way too fast and not communicating at some points in time,” Holliday said. “We’ll go up on a run and then the next thing you know the teams will come back. I feel like we should be beating teams by 20 each game, most definitely.”