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Holston defies doubters to reach D-I

Troy Holston Jr. is averaging 17.7 minutes per game in his freshman season. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Troy Holston Jr. grew up in Queens, New York, where he never had a father figure to play basketball with since his mother and father divorced when he was very young.

Around his eighth grade year, Holston and his mother moved to Tampa, where he first met his godfather. 

Since Holston didn’t grow up with a father, he has always been thankful for meeting his godfather, Reverend Frazier, whose son, Michael Frazier, plays basketball at the University of Florida.

“I never had a father figure to take me to the courts growing up, and my godfather was the first one that took the time out to take me to the gym after I moved to Tampa,” Holston said.  

Holston recalled going to the gym and practicing twice a day with his godfather and godbrother.

“If we weren’t in school, we were there every morning and every evening, so we would do two-a-days and my godfather really took care of me and has been a huge part of my success,” Holston said. 

Holston attended three schools during his first two years of high school and received only one Division I offer from Boston College, without much playing time on the court. 

All three of the schools Holston attended during his freshman and sophomore years had coaches who either did not let him play, or were not able to fit him into their systems, which were not designed for perimeter shooting, his specialization. 

“All those other coaches had a certain system which made me feel uncomfortable and did not let me show my talents,” Holston said. 

Holston transferred to Oldsmar Christian in Pinellas at the beginning of his junior year, where he met coach Jordan Fair and broke out as a shooter. 

Holston immediately noticed the difference between Oldsmar and his previous three high schools, mainly because of his new coach. 

“Once I got to high school, I made varsity, but my coaches did not play me much and one specifically told me that I was going to be a Division II player,” Holston said. “My coach at Oldsmar, Jordan Fair, he is a player’s coach and I loved playing for him because he let me play my game and let me be myself.” 

Coach Fair saw the untapped potential that others did not, and was a key part of Holston’s success in his high school years. 

“Troy really grew up at Oldsmar and went from a carefree kid to somebody who was focused and knew he wanted to make basketball happen for him,” Fair said.

Fair remembered Holston’s daily grind at practice. 

“I would challenge Troy every day and he never got any days off,” Fair said. “I knew if he listened to me, he could be very successful and really develop as a complete player.” 

In his senior season, Holston led Oldsmar to a 16-9 record while averaging 23 points per game. By the end of his high school years, Holston wound up with offers from Memphis, South Florida, Marquette, Miami, Kansas State and Alabama. 

“I pushed him really hard and he responded well, because he came to Oldsmar with one Boston College offer and left as one of the top 150 players in the country,” Fair said. 

Holston said he takes a positive approach to life and is thankful for getting the chance to play Division I basketball. 

In his first season at USF, Holston is averaging 4.8 points in 17.7 minutes per game. The freshman guard has played in 17 of the Bulls’ 20 games and started two.

“When adjusting to college basketball, you have to look at it in a positive way,” Holston said. “Sometimes, I work out with coach Strickland, have a two-hour practice, lift weights and then finish off with cardio, and in order to get through it, you have to be mentally strong.”

In addition to his coach, roommate and teammate Corey Allen Jr. knew from the start that Holston would never back down from a challenge. 

“His personality off the court is goofy, but when I first met him, I knew that he wanted to come to USF to strictly play basketball and not mess around and party,” Allen said. “I see that drive, and I see that chip on his shoulder, but he never shies away from working hard.”