‘This is a big deal’ — DaRon Holmes II ready for his moment at NBA Draft

Dayton star talks to reporters in Manhattan one day before draft

NEW YORK CITY — The Lotte New York Palace sits on Madison Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. The hotel is across the street from St. Patrick Cathedral. Rockefeller Center, the home of Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show, etc., is a block away down 50th street.

The chandeliers, the statues, the broad staircase leading to the second floor, nothing about the Lotte would remind DaRon Holmes II of the Skuns Room, where he conducted so many interviews over the last three years, at the University of Dayton’s Cronin Center.

Holmes, the former Dayton Flyers star who helped lead the program to its first NCAA tournament victory in nine years in March, was a long way from both his homes — Goodyear, Ariz., and Dayton — when he walked into a ballroom at the hotel on Tuesday afternoon. However, he looked right at home as he spoke for 20 minutes with an assortment of reporters. He was one of 24 expected first-round picks who talked to the media one day before the NBA Draft.

Mostly, Holmes looked like a future NBA player, as he has since arrived on the UD campus three years ago. That future is about to arrive. The draft starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Draft experts expect Holmes to hear his name late in the first round. The fact that he earned an invitation to sit in the green room at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and await the announcement is the best indication he’ll be the Dayton Flyers’ fourth first-round pick and first since Obi Toppin 2020.

“I’m excited,” Holmes said. “This is a big deal. We’re all just here waiting. We’re all here in the moment. I still haven’t processed it fully.”

Holmes didn’t know until Thursday he would attend the draft. His family would have held a watch party back home in Arizona. He said he received the news from his agent, Aaron Reilly.

“That was amazing,” Holmes said. “My mom was screaming. My agents were very happy. My dad was happy. My whole family was happy. We were all just excited.”

Holmes, a consensus All-American last season as a junior in his final season with the Dayton Flyers, will have his dad DaRon Sr., his mom Tomika, his younger brothers Quintyn and Cameron, Reilly and UD coach Anthony Grant at his table Wednesday night.

Holmes can’t wait to share the moment with the coach who has guided him the past three seasons.

“He’s been around the NBA before, so he’s probably seen a lot of stuff like this before,” Holmes said, “but just to be able to share that with him will be special because he’s really helped me out and guided me as a player. I’m grateful that he’s going to be there.”

Holmes praised the entire coaching staff for helping him reach this point. He was a top-40 recruit when he signed with UD and a starter from the season opener of his freshman season, but his game reached a new level each season, culminating with an All-American performance as a junior.

“They helped me with everything,” Holmes said, “just teaching me the right way on and off the court, how to carry myself, how to be a great player. Learn from the neck up. Learn certain game situations. I can’t thank them enough.”

Holmes said he watched the draft when Toppin was picked eighth overall in 2020. He watched last year when his former teammate Toumani Camara was selected in the second round. He now will get to see what the experience will be like in person. He’s “very confident” he will hear his name in the first round.

“I’m excited for the people back home and for the people at Dayton,” Holmes said. “It’s a big opportunity. I can’t wait to represent myself at the best level.”

Holmes worked out in New Jersey early in the spring and has spent recent weeks back home in Arizona. He also traveled to Chicago in May for the NBA Draft Combine.

“It has been a lot of hard work,” Holmes said. “We’ve just been doing the same things every day, working very hard and just trying to get after it.”

Holmes will meet with his former teammates on Wednesday afternoon at the Lotte hotel. He said the returning players on the roster will travel to New York City and attend the draft. The UD coaching staff will be in the arena as well.

“It means everything,” Holmes said. “They’ve all invested in me. I’ve invested in them. They have my back. I have their back. It’s a big deal to me.”

Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan talked last week about the importance of UD building a legacy in the NBA. Holmes knows his success and the performances of Toppin and Camara in the league last season will help the program in recruiting.

“They’ve got to understand Dayton is a place where you can go and develop and get better over time and end up in this position,” he said. “Guys have done it before me and Obi and Toumani. It’s just a blessing.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

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