North Texas Daily

Holston continues to prove value as defensive staple for McCasland

Holston continues to prove value as defensive staple for McCasland

February 28
19:24 2018

Head coach Grant McCasland has had to get creative in his first season at North Texas. Due to injuries and a fairly young team, he has often played unique lineups and changed rotations as well as starting lineups throughout the season.

Perhaps none have worked as well, though, as when McCasland put 6-foot-7-inch guard Allante Holston at the de facto center position and surrounded him with four players at least three inches shorter. This occurred on Feb. 3 against Rice University for the final 10 minutes of regulation.

It resulted in a comeback win for the Mean Green, and it served as a much needed reminder to everybody just why Holston is so distinctly important to this team.

“He’s got a unique length, size and athleticism to him that makes him a versatile defender where he can guard multiple positions,” McCasland said. “He also has a good defensive awareness of where he is on the court and where his teammates are on the floor.”

Holston is tied for the best defensive plus/minus rating on the team with sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge and continuously shows his defensive impact by typically guarding the other team’s best wing when he is in the game.

But his impact on that end goes beyond his adequate one-on-one defense.

“Where he’s made the biggest impact for us is on all of our different schemes defensively. He’s able to execute them and we can put him in a lot of different spots which has been hugely helpful,” McCasland said. “[Offensively] he’s bought into a role, and he understands even though he can [score], it may not be what the team needs, and he picks his spots of when he does [attack].”

Holston averages the second least amount of shots on the team per 40 minutes at only 6.4. He is 5 of 13 from three on the season, and while he has hit shots late in the clock, he is constantly looking for ways to make the game easier for his teammates.

Usually, once he catches in the paint, he instantly scans for surrounding shooters before putting the ball on the floor for his own shot as a last resort.

“I just try to get everyone else open,” Holston said. “If I have to set a screen, attack the basket, draw the defense to kick out to the open person for three, I try to do that.”

He has been able to do that for the duration of the season, starting only 12 of the teams 29 games, but playing the fourth most minutes on the roster.

“He plays out of his area, and he rebounds out of his area,” sophomore guard A.J. Lawson said. “He plays guard and post so he can guard the bigger guys and the smaller guys, which really helps us defensively when teams decide to go small on us.”

As the player with the most career games under his belt at North Texas, Holston has never been a scorer, but his role on the team feels larger than last year especially. The team’s defense has also improved, going from 222nd in the country last season to 157th this year.

He has gone against the best wings in Conference USA and went against one of the top forwards in the country in Kevin Hervey from the University of Texas at Arlington earlier this season. It has all equaled an even smarter and sharper mindset to go along with his physical capabilities.

“I have a bigger role, but I just try to do what I can to help my team win,” Holston said. “I’ve learned a lot [as a defender], everybody plays a different style, so I’m learning how to guard guys if they can shoot, if they are stronger. It’s been a learning experience for me.”

The defensive side of the ball is where Holston is a game changer on a nightly basis, but his offensive role as a utility player of sorts has been expanded by McCasland. As a coach, McCasland has been able to put his players in positions to have success and Holston is no different on offense.

“He has athleticism, and he can play above the rim,” McCasland said. “He’s such a good slasher and a good straight line driver, and the other thing he does is he gets offensive rebounds. He’s one of those guys who sacrifices his body to get the basketball, and that’s where he’s been our biggest help offensively, his offensive rebounding.”

The only flashy part of Holston’s game is his occasional ferocious dunk he can throw down either off an alley-oop or a deep catch in the paint. Besides that, though, he prefers to keep it simple, which has been crucial to his team’s success this season.

“I just try to do anything I can to help [the team] win,” Holston said. “Rebound, box out, defend or help my teammates get more open shots and easier paths to the lane. Whatever the team is missing, I try to fill that missing piece.”

Featured image: Junior guard Allante Holston dribbles the ball towards the basket. Madison Gore

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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