Wright State’s Holden not letting pursuit of 2,000 points change his team-oriented focus

Credit: Joseph R. Craven

Credit: Joseph R. Craven

FAIRBORN — Tanner Holden isn’t a kid anymore, of course. He’ll turn 24 next month and is in his fifth year as a college basketball player.

But while others might tend to become self-centered when a significant career milestone is within reach, Holden has definitely taken a grown-up approach to his quest for 2,000 points at Wright State.

“It doesn’t really matter to me how many points I score. As long as we win, that’s the biggest key,” he said.

“Individual accolades — they’re cool. I think when I get older, I’ll be able to look back at that. But for now, the thing that will satisfy me the most is getting a (championship) banner.”

The 6-foot-6 wing has amassed 1,963 points and has at least two more games to get the 37 he needs to become the 16th player in Horizon League history and third at Wright State to accomplish the feat.

But Holden — who will be honored on Senior Night with teammate Trey Calvin before playing Northern Kentucky on Saturday — would gladly give that up for a league title. And he said he’s had some help in keeping his priorities in order.

“Talking to coach Sargent, you think about those things and how sweet they’d be — those individual accolades. But then, whenever you really look at the big picture, hanging a banner is the biggest goal we have right now, and that’s still in our eyes,’ he said.

Wright State assistant Clint Sargent has taken a personal interest in Holden — mostly because the coach went through a similar experience in his playing days.

He scored 1,505 points for South Dakota State under coach Scott Nagy from 2007-11 and is seventh on the all-time scoring list there.

But his senior season wasn’t the joyful ride into the sunset he hoped to have.

“I was an offensive-minded kid. Your stats, your 3-point percentage, all those things were way too important to me,” Sargent said.

“I know how much me focusing on that stole from the enjoyment of my career. With Tanner, he’s been highly decorated throughout his career, has always been in the spotlight, and with that comes a burden that can just steal and rob the enjoyment of being part of a team.”

Holden averaged 20.1 points as a junior at Wright State, becoming a two-time first-team all-league honoree. He chose to test himself at a higher level after that by transferring to Ohio State.

It didn’t go as planned. The Buckeyes tried to turn him into something he wasn’t — a 3-point specialist instead of a creative scorer — and he came back after one disastrous season perhaps a little beaten up.

“After the year he went through last year, I just really wanted him to enjoy being in the locker room again — because it’s such a special environment — and come alongside him in that fight,” Sargent said.

“He’s tasted the good. He knows what it’s like. He wants it so badly for so many people around him. He wants to end this well. There’s pressure with that. … And, yeah, you see it weighing on him.”

Holden has willingly gone from being the team’s lead scorer to taking a supporting role. He’s averaging 16.1 points, but is attempting only 10.8 shots per game after averaging 13.6 two years ago.

His shooting percentage is up to 55.1% after hitting 49.7 his junior year.

But while he’s had five games with at least 25 points, he’s reached 20 just once in the last 10 outings.

Through it all, Sargent has stayed in Holden’s ear.

“It’s such a unique platform for us as coaches to come alongside him and help him unpack that properly. That’s ultimately our job,” he said.

“We feel if we can do that right, they develop as players. I’m incredibly thankful to be able to help him in that journey.”

Holden has already set the school record for career free throws made by going 527 for 714 (74.3%).

He’s also four rebounds away from passing Sean Hammonds (1989-94) for third on the all-time list.

But what he wants most is what the Raiders experienced two years ago. They won the league tourney as a four seed and then beat Bryant in the NCAA First Four at UD Arena.

Holden had the best game of his career, tallying 37 points and 11 rebounds. He went 11 of 15 from the field, 1 of 1 on 3′s and 14 of 16 on foul shots in the 93-82 win.

The Raiders were competitive against No. 1 seed Arizona in the next round before falling, 87-70.

“That’s what we all remember. That’s the TIME we all remember. That’s what we’re working for, figuring out how to get there,” Holden said.

“We have the team to do it. It’s really just showing up every day, working hard, sticking to what we’re good at and just going out there and competing.”


Northern Kentucky at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 101.5, 1410

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