Tra Holder is ASU men's basketball's most valuable player

No. 21 ASU men's basketball would not be where it is now without Tra Holder

For ASU basketball, there is no player who has been more valuable than senior point guard Tra Holder.

The No. 21-ranked Sun Devils this season have rallied on superb ball handling, ball movement and three-point shooting. Holder has been the driving force for ASU in all three facets of the Sun Devils' style of play.

Holder this season has been ASU’s primary ball handler, is second on the team in total assists with 73 and is averaging over 40 percent from three-point range.

His most notable games this season came against No. 8 Xavier University at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational Tournament in Las Vegas. While unranked, ASU upset the then-No.15 Musketeers, thanks to a career high 40 points from Holder.

The win would place the Sun Devils in the top 25 for college basketball for the first time since 2009.

While Holder is now the the key piece to ASU's lineup, he didn't come into the basketball program as a highly sought prospect. In fact, ESPN ranked Holder as only a three-star recruit coming out of Brentwood School in Los Angeles.

"He was an unranked prospect who didn't really have a lot of offers," Chris Karpman, publisher of SunDevilSource.com, said. 

In his freshman season in Tempe, Holder averaged only seven points per game on 24 percent three-point shooting, but since his freshman year, Holder has improved in every aspect of his game. 

The Sun Devils' point guard improved his three-point shooting, points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game numbers with an increased workload while also playing 8.2 more minutes per game than his freshman season.

"He reworked his shot," Karpman said. "Former ASU assistant coach Stan Johnson was really involved with (improving Holder's shot). He did a really good job at making his shot more compact and more repeatable both in terms of the actual mechanic and how much lift he was getting off of the floor."

A high contrast from Holder's high school days, NBADraft.net now projects that the Houston Rockets will draft him in the second round with the 36th overall pick.

The meteoric rise of Tra Holder may not be as much of a surprise to ASU fans, as Holder has earned a reputation for his very even-keeled personality. 

In an interview with thesundevils.com, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said, “he's just got his act together," calling Holder "a very polite and humble kid who just does his work."

In the beginning of the season, the Sun Devils this season were projected to finish sixth in the Pac-12. Similar to Holder, ASU has been an underdog throughout the year, being saddled with low level prospects. 

Heading into their match-up against Utah on Thursday, the Sun Devils are ranked eighth in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils only have four losses this season, but all of them are in Pac-12 play over the past  month. 

Although the Sun Devils this season may not be as hot as they were before the start of Pac-12 play, Hurley's team is still an NCAA Tournament-caliber team that can make some noise in March.

Holder may be the best player on one of the best basketball teams in the country, but nothing has ever come easy to either him or his Sun Devil teammates. This is what makes Holder the perfect fit on a team of underdogs and long-shots.


Reach the columnist at kbriley@asu.edu and on twitter @Kokiriley.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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