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Safe at Holmes: SPC relies on sophomore

Before every game, St. Petersburg Catholic coach Mike Moran unveils his master plan for winning.

It's pretty simple really: Aaron, you'll be guarding the other team's best player.

Not a bad place to start.

Though he's more regarded for his offensive production, Aaron Holmes may be more effective and more valuable to Class 3A's No. 4-ranked team as the first stop in SPC's impressive defense.

That alone is a remarkable feat, considering that Holmes is no offensive slouch _ his 22-point average is third in the county.

But Holmes' hawkish play, whether in man-to-man or at the top of SPC's zone, has endeared himself to Moran.

"Since he got here, we've always given him the other team's best guard and that's something he really relishes," Moran said. "That allows him to use his length and athleticism. Every pass you throw against him, you have to think about."

Holmes has had six or more steals in three of the last four games. For that reason, SPC almost always gets off more shots than the opponent.

Against Clearwater Central Catholic, Holmes helped SPC outshoot the Marauders 20-5 in the first quarter. CCC never recovered.

"I enjoy playing defense, and I like coming out shutting the other team down," Holmes said.

It's why he looks forward to playing teams with good guards, like CCC, who the Barons play Saturday, and Admiral Farragut (and the Lampley brothers Tommy and Lewis) later this season.

The hype over Holmes' play is just beginning. Touted as a middle schooler, sometimes it's easy to forget he is just a sophomore..

Holmes will soon be soaked in the love of AAU coaches eager to add him to their roster. Three such programs were in attendance when Holmes scored 24 against Northside Christian. Whereever he decides to play, Holmes is almost sure to blossom into a top recruit.

"I didn't feel any pressure when I came here," Holmes said. "But yeah, I feel more pressure now. All this hype stuff just means you have to come out and play every night. I like it."

"I think he's got the chance to be a major recruit," Moran said. "He needs to work on his ballhandling, and he's young and not as strong as he's going to be. But with the way he works at it, he's got a chance to be big-time college player."

After he becomes a big-time high school player, by winning a state title. It's a goal Holmes feels is at hand. The Barons are considered a favorite to reach the 3A semifinals and are hoping to avenge a 72-38 regional semifinal loss to Melbourne Florida Air.