Friar Basketball

How Will Emmitt Holt Impact the Offense?

Holt vs URI

Brendan McGair wrote a terrific piece on Emmitt Holt in August for the Woonsocket Call. For the better part of the past decade McGair has found quite a niche digging up interesting angles on the Friars, and his article on Holt was one of his best.

In it, McGair spoke with Holt’s mother about an abdominal ailment that threatened not only her son’s basketball career, but potentially his life last year. According to the article, Holt spent months at Massachusetts General Hospital and lost over 30 pounds. It was an ordeal that quickly went far beyond basketball.

McGair’s article is more than worth your time if you haven’t already seen it.

For the purpose of this season preview, I will focus strictly on Holt’s on-court production.

Holt’s surgery kept him out of action last season, but he’s set to return to a squad in need of his experience this fall. While he played in two games during Providence’s Italian tour this summer, it’s anyone’s guess as to how he’ll look once the games start for real. Just getting him back on campus and on his feet is a win.

In an appearance on Andy Katz’ “March Madness 365” podcast in late September, Ed Cooley said he’s seen positive strides, “Even since the Italy trip, I’ve really seen him get stronger, more confident. He’s had a couple of setbacks, but he’s moving forward. He’s continued to gain weight. He’s in the gym a lot. He’s going to be a key factor to us if we’re going to be the team we want to be in February/March. We need his growth, we need his experience, and hopefully he can continue to be healthy.”

Holt was a tremendous signing for the Friars after it became clear that Ben Bentil was most likely headed for the NBA Draft in the spring of 2016.

He scored 22 points in his Friar debut against a good Vermont team, and closed the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds versus a massive USC frontcourt in the NCAA tournament.

His 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and .523 shooting from the field (including .344 from 3) were more than Cooley could have asked for, yet a deeper look into the numbers shows just how effective Holt was offensively in 2016-17.

 

Point of Comparison

Holt’s advanced offensive numbers were outstanding two years ago. He ranked in the 87th percentile nationally in offensive efficiency (points per possession). To put that in perspective, Bentil finished 2016 in the 88th percentile overall (albeit with far greater usage).

To truly get a sense of how efficient Holt was during his lone season of action in Providence, I took at look at how he compared to PC’s two other high usage inside/out threats in recent seasons — Rodney Bullock last season and Bentil in ’15-16 — in a variety of categories.

Spot-up:

  1. Holt: 1.019 points per possession, 71st percentile nationally (53 possessions)
  2. Bentil: .984 points per possession, 67th percentile nationally (128 possessions)
  3. Bullock: .982 points per possession, 62nd percentile nationally (113 possessions)

Transition:

  1. Bentil: 1.237 points per possession, 81st percentile nationally (59 possessions)
  2. Holt: 1.185 points per possession, 74th percentile nationally (27 possessions)
  3. Bullock: .931 points per possession, 32nd percentile nationally (87 possessions)

Cut:

  1. Holt: 1.329 points per possession, 82nd percentile nationally (70 possessions)
  2. Bentil: 1.221 points per possession, 69th percentile nationally (113 possessions)
  3. Bullock: 1.213 points per possession, 64th percentile nationally (75 possessions)

Post-up:

  1. Holt: .963 points per possession, 82nd percentile nationally (82 possessions)
  2. Bullock: .892 points per possession, 67th percentile nationally (74 possessions)
  3. Bentil: .875 points per possession, 66th percentile nationally (128 possessions)

Pick & Roll Man:

  1. Holt: 1.116 points per possession, 67th percentile nationally (69 possessions)
  2. Bentil: 1.028 points per possession, 57th percentile nationally (107 possessions)
  3. Bullock: .645 points per possession, 11th percentile nationally (31 possessions)

Off Screen:

  1. Holt: 1.286 points per possession, 80th percentile nationally (35 possessions)
  2. Bullock: 1.179 points per possession, 62nd percentile nationally (28 possessions)
  3. Bentil: 1.109 points per possession, 55th percentile nationally (64 possessions)

Isolation:

  1. Bentil: .884 points per possession, 71st percentile nationally  (43 possessions)
  2. Bullock: .769 points per possession, 45th percentile nationally (26 possessions)
  3. Holt: .667 points per possession, 30th percentile nationally (12 possessions)

Summary:

Bentil’s efficiency combined with the number of shots he hoisted in 2015-16 made him one of the most productive players in the country three years ago. He led the Big East in scoring, field goals made, free throws made, had five 30+ points games, including 38 against Butler in the Big East Tournament and 42 at Marquette. His season was the best of any big man in the Cooley era.

When researching Holt, I expected his advanced numbers to be good, but I was surprised to see just how effectively he scored across a variety of categories. He was very good in six of the eight categories listed: spotting up (71st percentile), in transition (74th), cuts (82nd), posting up (82nd), pick and roll roll man (67th), and offensive rebounds (80th). Anything in the 70th percentile and up can be considered very good to outstanding, and to score so efficiently in a numbers of ways is evidence of how valuable Holt was in 2017.

Bullock and Bentil were superior players in isolation (that’s not Holt’s game), but both the eye test and the numbers indicate that Holt was the best of the three when both posting up and rolling off of a screen. He is great at clearing space for himself in the paint and finishes with fluidity on short jump hooks, reverse layups, and on cuts. Plus, he has a great touch around the rim.

If Holt were to return to some semblance of his prior self, Providence will feature three very efficient post players in Holt, Alpha Diallo, and Nate Watson. Both Watson and Diallo were among the most effective post scorers in the country last season when given touches.

Two other areas in which Holt could make a difference are beyond the arc and in the huddle. Bullock and Jalen Lindsey had their detractors, but the duo combined for over 110 3-point field goals in each of the past two years.

When factoring in Kyron Cartwright’s 30-40 3s, there is a decent sized gap the Friars will have to fill either through newcomers like freshmen AJ Reeves and Kris Monroe, a spike in production from the likes of Diallo or Maliek White, or a potential boost from a returning Holt.

Beyond the numbers, Holt brings energy and leadership ability. When he returned to the bench for the first time in January, both Cooley and Cartwright were emotional at the postgame podium speaking about him. Cartwright spoke of how Holt held teammates accountable.

How Holt returns from a season away will be one of the biggest storylines not only in Providence, but all of the Big East. If the Friars contend for a top three finish in the league, Holt most likely rebounded physically and played an important role in 2018-19.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar

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