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July 09, 2015

With high-effort playing style, Holmes looks to catch on with Sixers

The Bowling Green product has played well so far in summer league

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Here is a fun game (note: it's not that much fun): Try to explain the rationale behind each of the Sixers’ draft picks, but only by using one attribute.

Jahlil Okafor is an easy one, as he was selected primarily because of his size and skill on the low block. Jean-Pierre Tokoto’s (still getting used to that) athleticism is probably what Sam Hinkie found most intriguing. In the case of 37th pick Richaun Holmes, it might simply be due to the consistent energy he brings to the floor. That is what he figures, anyway.

“That’s something that catches a lot of people’s eyes is my activity, being able to bring energy and just the intensity I play with,” Holmes said. “So I think that’s something [the Sixers] saw and that they liked and thankfully it got me here.”

It has only been two games of summer league ball, but Holmes has showed pretty well in Utah. Against the Spurs and Celtics summer outfits, the 21-year-old scored a combined 22 points on 18 shots and collected 11 boards, 3 blocks, and 3 steals. Even beyond the numbers, which is key because what a player shows is almost as important as their statistical output in this setting, he has looked pretty good doing so.

Like Jerami Grant, a similarly sized athletic tweener who Holmes currently shares the floor with, the Sixers want their new 6-foot-8 forward hoisting threes. Holmes hasn’t been bashful, going 2-9 from beyond the arc through two games. For reference, he shot 30-83 from deep over his last two seasons at Bowling Green, per DX. Even though the results haven’t come in the early going, Holmes has showcased a natural ability to pick-and-pop beyond the three-point line, something the center-heavy Sixers are desperately looking for in reserve 4's. Just judging by his footwork, he doesn't look out of place on the perimeter.

“I’ve definitely been working on it,” Holmes told reporters in Utah when asked about the three-ball. “We’re going to get it better and more consistent to make sure I can be a knockdown threat in the NBA.”

In his first few weeks as a professional, one of the main questions Holmes has consistently been asked is about the level of competition he faced in college. He played a few nonleague games against top tier competition like Wisconsin (Frank Kaminsky) and Michigan State (Gary Harris, Adreian Payne), but the MACtion he would face in January and February every year naturally causes some skepticism from us snobby NBA journos.

For his part, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year (2.7 blocks per game) correctly pointed out that everybody has to make an adjustment once they make the jump to the pros. 

“Coming from any college to the NBA is an adjustment for everybody,” Holmes said. “I just have the attitude to work as hard as I possibly can, do whatever is required of me, and then do more.”

When he finally received the opportunity to match up against players from BCS schools, Holmes took advantage at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. In three games, he averaged close to 15 points per game while filling the stat sheet in other ways as well. Holmes’ strong showing earned him a spot on the all-tournament team.

For now, Holmes is an intriguing player (albeit one who can't really dribble from the look of things) that is scheduled to play his last summer league game later tonight against the Utah Jazz, though the Sixers might theoretically bring him to Las Vegas as well as a reward. One thing we can count on is that whenever Holmes plays, he’ll continue to provide the team with energy.

“That’s my M.O.: just play hard at all times, defend, and try to help the team win,” Holmes said.

They're simple goals, but Holmes has been successful so far according to his criteria.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann