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Stephen Holt: Why Not

If Melbourne United win the NBL Championship next month, look for Stephen Holt to have something of a post-game Kevin Garnett moment live on Fox Sports. Like Garnett screaming ‘ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE’ back in 2008, United’s import guard hopes to spread his own personal motto in celebration of an NBL title. According to Holt, his ‘WHYNOT’ hashtag started during his college days at Saint Mary’s and, over time, has become part of what he stands for. “It’s kind of just like why not be great? Why not be a leader? Why not reach your dreams and play to your full potential?” Holt told nbl.com.au. “I post it whenever I can.” Holt shares his motto with NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook, whose Why Not? Foundation works to support underprivileged children and encourage youth to believe in themselves. It’s a mindset that has helped Holt ball-out since arriving in Australia last year. The 24-year-old has started every game for Melbourne this season and is putting up averages of 16.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists. The numbers are nice, but Holt’s influence extends far beyond the box score. He possesses the rare ability to consistently deliver in the big moments. Melbourne’s dramatic overtime win in Perth last Friday provides the perfect example. With top spot on the line – as well as the all-important head-to-head split – Holt drained seven-of-eleven three-pointers on his way to a game-high 33 points. [ooyala code="ZxbXhsMDE6RNuD1Lh1wQxpfUVF7S-6CD" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="1280" height="720" auto="true"] Sensing the moment is one of his most impressive attributes and the point guard felt a high-scoring night in the Jungle was just what the doctor ordered. “For me to hit those shots in the first quarter, it gave our team a little bit of momentum,” Holt said.  “I knew I had to be aggressive and put up points in that game and it was just one of those games where I led the team in scoring.” Of course, sensing your team’s needs and being able to provide them are two very different things.   Fortunately for Melbourne, Holt’s versatile skill set, team-first mentality and elite basketball IQ have allowed him to deliver time and time again this season. “Stephen’s been great all year long,” said head coach Dean Demopoulos after defeating the Wildcats. “He’s done really, really well all year long and I couldn’t have made a better selection.” Demopoulos grew familiar with Holt’s game late last decade while working as an assistant with the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. Holt was only in high school at the time but was making a name for himself in nearby Beaverton, just 20 minutes down the road from downtown Portland. In 2010, both coach and player moved to California; Demopoulos to work at the Los Angeles Clippers and Holt to play under Randy Bennett at Saint Mary’s. Having tracked his career and watched him grow as a player, Demopoulos was certain Holt had what it took to do well in the NBL. “He’s gained the respect of the Australian players by playing tough defence and sharing the ball and that’s why he was selected to be the guard here, because of those attributes,” Demopoulos explained. “I knew it from watching him play. The two things that Australian players respect is effort on defence and sharing the basketball and Stephen does those things. “In addition he’s a terrific scorer and clutch player.” That familiarity played a big role in Holt’s decision to sign. “He knew of me, knew my character and what I was about,” Holt said. “In fact, that was one of the main things that sold me; playing for a coach who already knew my background in high school and saw me in college and stuff.” In the end, it’s been a perfect fit; a tight coach/player relationship and harmonious team chemistry helping Holt produce an outstanding season on the floor. From the coach’s perspective, it all starts with Holt’s focus on the ‘we’. “If you don’t have that, regardless of the talent level, it doesn’t work,” he said. “This league is replete with situations where it hasn’t worked, not because of skill sets or anything else, just attitude and approach.” Holt has struck almost the perfect balance this season, between shooting the rock and getting his team-mates involved.  With elite offensive weapons like Chris Goulding, Daniel Kickert, Todd Blanchfield and Hakim Warrick alongside you, that’s a very fine line to tread. “Yeah it's tough being the point guard you have to solve a different puzzle each night but I think it's just my personality, it's all about winning,” Holt said. “The game against Perth was just my night as far as scoring, in other games I'm the distributor and getting guys in the offence and in the right spots. “I think the main theme for me, it just comes down to winning and I think throughout my career as a pro, in college and even in high school, every stop that I've been at it just comes down to winning and doing all the little things to help my team win.” It’s a mentality that seems to have spread throughout the Melbourne United locker room – something that was desperately missing last season. “The one thing you can kind of control, but you can't really control is the culture in the locker room,” Holt said. “I think we've done a great job of coming together as far as team bonding, focusing on our goals and trying to take one game at a time and honestly play for each other. “I couldn't ask for better culture in the locker room because it's been great this whole entire year.” A year set to end with the popping of champagne?
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