Holmes warmed up for the game in a Dayton T-shirt, so it was easy for the Dayton fans to spot him, and they cheered him throughout the game — all the way to his final play. He left the game after converting a 4-point play on his only 3-point attempt of the game in the final minutes.
Although an attendance number wasn’t announced, the state allowed the event to have as many as 700 fans. Holmes was shocked to see so many cheering for him. Then after the game, he posed for photos with a number of fans and signed autographs.
“I didn’t expect all those fans to be out here,” he said. “It’s a good thing. It shows me what I’m about to get into.”
If the COVID-19 situation improves, Holmes could be playing in front of more than 13,000 fans next season at UD Arena. Holmes committed to Dayton in October and signed in November. He’s part of a four-man recruiting class that also includes Malachi Smith, Kaleb Washington and Lynn Greer III. That group ranks 19th in the nation among 2021 recruiting classes, according to 247Sports.com. That website ranks Holmes 40th in the 2021 class. Rivals.com ranks him 36th.
Until Monday, Holmes had not seen the Dayton campus but he and Gipson and one of the assistant coaches took a tour earlier in the day. He was not able to talk to Dayton coaches in person because of NCAA recruiting restrictions during the pandemic or tour UD Arena because it was being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site, but he otherwise got to see dorms and classrooms and everything he’ll experience as a student when he arrives in June.
“You can obviously tell the culture is there,” Holmes said. “Great culture. Great fans. The atmosphere is amazing. That’s what makes this place special.”
Holmes has been in communication with the Dayton coaches throughout his senior season.
“They check in all the time,” Holmes said. “That’s what makes it special. They can’t wait to have me, and I can’t wait to be there.”
Holmes was the second recruit in Dayton’s 2021 class to commit, following Smith, who announced his decision in August. Washington picked Dayton two days after Holmes. Then Greer III joined the class in February. They’ve all connected on social media.
“We’re all excited,” Holmes said, “and we can’t wait to get this thing started.”
Holmes started his senior season at Montverde Prep in Florida but moved back home to Arizona to play for Compass Prep in January.
“It was a smart move,” he said. “It was a great move. I talked to my parents about it. They supported it. Now we’re having major success. It’s just a blessing.”
Compass Preps ranks second in the country in the MaxPreps.com top 25 behind Montverde. Daron’s dad, Daron Holmes Sr., said it was a tough decision to leave Montverde, but Holmes was coming off the bench on a talented roster and was also homesick.
“We didn’t go to Montverde with the intention of not being happy and leaving,” Holmes Sr. said. “I think the longer we were there, considering COVID, considering the restrictions, considering the lack of gym time, it just ended up being not what we imagined. We thought we could do better.”
Compass Prep is nearing the end of a busy season. It returned to action Monday two days after winning a tournament in Phoenix. It beat BFL Prep, of Seattle, Wash., 70-67 in the final of the Grind Session World Championships.
Holmes drew the task of guarding Duke recruit Paolo Banchero, who ranks third in the 2021 class, and held him to 22 points on 7-of-25 shooting. He averaged 36 points in the other three games in the event.
“(Holmes) sacrificed his body and dedicated himself to not allowing a superstar player to dominate the game,” his dad wrote on Twitter.