Mississippi State

Harrison Central's Holmes learning on the fly at Mississippi State

By ROBBIE FAULK

ROGELIO V. SOLIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS 
 Former Harrison Central standout Jazzmun Holmes has been an important role player at Mississippi State as a freshman. The Bulldogs host UT-Chattanooga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
ROGELIO V. SOLIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS Former Harrison Central standout Jazzmun Holmes has been an important role player at Mississippi State as a freshman. The Bulldogs host UT-Chattanooga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. AP

Before Jazzmun Holmes was even old enough to dribble the round ball up and down the court, she was destined for a career in maroon and white.

Holmes' mother, Shayla, utilized her athleticism kicking a ball on the soccer field at Mississippi State while her father, Tim Nelson, made a career out of hitting everyone with a ball cradled in the arms on the football field.

It was all MSU in the Nelson household and Holmes learned early that Starkville was more like home even though she grew up hundreds of miles south in Lyman. So when MSU head coach Vic Schaefer came calling two years ago, she started to feel that tug towards central Mississippi deep down.

"I just felt a certain way," Holmes said. "When my dad said that the Bulldogs were like family, that's what it really meant. MSU definitely made me feel like family when they were recruiting me."

Holmes gets the opportunity to help the Bulldogs make a run to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 this weekend as they host first- and second-round games at Humphrey Coliseum beginning at 1:30 p.m. Friday. Fans can catch the former Harrison Central standout on ESPN2.

Of all the attributes that Holmes possesses in her arsenal, speed is by far the one that stands out. The former Red Rebelette averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals a game her senior year in high school, mostly because her speed trumped all.

That's translated well to the next level as Schaefer continues to be taken aback at the quickness the freshman has at point guard.

"She's been great. She's going to be a great player. Some days, she's faster than Morgan (William) and I've said Morgan is the fastest player I've ever coached. For Jazz, she's going through some of the same growing pains that Morgan went through last year. Sometimes I have to remind her that I just need Vanilla. I don't need all the mustard and ketchup.

"I knew this when I recruited her: She's really good in the open floor. She sees the court exceptionally well and I think our team runs as good if not better when she's at the point."

Holmes' first year on campus has been filled with ups and downs but her presence has been shown already. Known more as a facilitator, Holmes' two points per game is trumped by dishing out 68 assists, which is second on the team only to William. With only 29 turnovers to go with it, she's protected the ball as well as expected.

Still, it's been a transition for the freshman and her aggressive nature on the defensive end has led to hard falls resulting in concussions. She's battling back, though.

"Freshman year has been much more than I expected," Holmes said. "It's been different with the playing time and how long the season has been. I've had a couple of concussions before but I've never had to sit out a week or two to recover.

"It was difficult knowing that I couldn't help my teammates out or give Morgan a break when she needed it."

William especially wants the younger guard on the court when she can. The sophomore out of Alabama spent all of last year in similar shoes when she played behind veteran guards and needed instruction. She sees a young player that's in for a big career and when she watches Holmes play, it's as if she has a mirror right in front of her.

"She's a great ball player. She's faster than me," William said. "She attacks the basket and feeds post players well. She's like a mini me."

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