Ron Holland isn’t yet a name that’s catching attention globally like NBA headliners, but that should change as we get closer to the 2024 NBA Draft.

The 6’8 forward from Duncanville, Texas, is one of the early candidates to be called first by NBA commissioner Adam Silver on draft night in New York. His blend of skill, IQ, athleticism, and motor are the traits NBA teams look for when building around a modern two-way wing.

The physical tools are there to validate where mock drafts currently have him, but does he have the mindset to become elite at the next level?

“I say what makes us different is we play with a chip on our shoulder. We really don’t get complacent about anything,” Holland said in an interview about what makes Texas-raised hoopers different from everyone else.

The now 18-year-old grew up as a multi-sport athlete, focusing on basketball and volleyball starting at the age of five. The game he’d grow to excel in was introduced to him by his uncles, and his intense competitiveness was molded by a friendly rivalry with his older sister, who excels at volleyball.

“I come from a competitive family, and losing was never an option,” Holland stated, a glint of pride evident in his response.

“Anything that had a score that could be won, it was competitive in my family. She played volleyball, and, I mean, like I said, I was a multi-sport athlete. Not saying I’m the best volleyball player, but me and her can take it back to volleyball if it came down to it.”

Holland developed into a consensus five-star high school prospect and was ranked second in ESPN’s class of 2023. He was selected to the 2023 McDonald’s High School All-American and Nike Hoop Summit, where he finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds and 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, respectively.

As a sophomore, he led his high school, Duncanville, to a 28-1 season and the state title. As a senior, they won 29 out of 30 games, and he was awarded Gatorade Texas Boys Basketball Player of the Year, averaging 20.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2.0 steals a contest.

He won a gold medal as part of USA Basketball in the 2021 FIBA U-16 Americas Championship, where he averaged 19 points and 10.2 rebounds as an All-Tournament Team selection. He added another gold for his mantle the year after in the FIBA U-17 Basketball World Cup, registering 11.1 points and 6.6 boards a contest.

Holland’s mindset is influenced by NBA legend Kevin Garnett, both an NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in his prime and regarded as one of the more memorable icons to ever play the game. What stood out most was his intense desire for victory.

“I idolized Kevin Garnett growing up. His mindset was just [about] how passionate he was, not only about basketball but off-court things, too,” Holland explained. “People thought something was really wrong with him, but it was just, nah, he just really loved what he was doing. He had so much passion for it.”

That respect from one competitor to another doesn’t happen by accident. It’s human nature to gravitate toward those with similar ambitions and styles. What Garnett did well was to recognize the fine line between a burning desire for triumph and being a temperamental detriment to his team, a slippery slope he navigated to constantly put his team in playoff contention.

“When it comes to being level-headed, I feel like a mistake that I used to make a lot was letting my passion go on, like, turning on the wrong side when it comes to me getting angry and people thinking I’m a hothead,” admitted Holland.

“Let’s just say I would yell at the ref or something,” he recalled. “I just feel like I made that mistake a few times back in middle school and high school, and I didn’t have people in my circle [then] where it was like they know I’m a pretty good player, but they didn’t really care about that because they cared about my character.”

A significant step in Holland’s journey was learning humility. At that point, it was encapsulated by accepting that regardless of his on-court talent, that doesn’t mean he’s beyond “punishment.”

“I feel like I took that with me, and I’m doing a better job of that today.”

Family guided him, and older friends didn’t hesitate to provide seasoned advice. Both areas were integral in determining his future post-high school, which included a de-commitment from the University of Texas to join G-League Ignite, following in the footsteps of lottery picks such as Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, and Scoot Henderson.

“I feel like this is one of the best decisions I could have made in my life,” Holland professed.

“The whole coaching staff just does a great job of preparing us on and off the court… I feel like they’re doing a great job preparing us to get us to accomplish our dreams.”

Holland is a tremendous athlete. He’s quick, explosive, strong, and can jump off the floor like a pogo stick. His motor and energy lead to momentum-swinging plays on both ends of the floor. He’s tough to stop in transition and has a floater he can rely on when a few feet away from the basket.

But there are areas to work on. The consistency of his outside shot will determine how good of a pro he will be. He’ll need to get stronger to finish against bigger defenders in the NBA. He needs to get to the rim more in half-court sets. A passing game, particularly while mastering pick-and-roll, would add an important layer to his overall skill set.

He averaged 20 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.2 steals and one block per contest for Ignite through his first 12 games of the season. Holland is shooting 47.5 from the floor, 27.5 percent from three on 3.3 attempts per game, and 68.4 percent from the foul line on 3.2 attempts per game. After a slow start, he’s been on fire as of late, reminding evaluators why he’s long been considered a top prospect in his class.

There are plenty of areas to work on, but he has time, continuing in the G-League and then with his eventual NBA team.

Like most swingmen, Holland watched game tape of Kevin Durant for offensive inspiration. But his model of excellence lately has been Mikal Bridges, who’s poised for a career season with the Brooklyn Nets this season.

“He wasn’t one of those All-Stars [right away]. His job was just to guard the best player and hit open shots when it’s his time to hit them,” Holland said of Bridges. “But [after] showing the world that he can do that, when his time came, he showed that he can do a little more than that, and now he is where he is today.”

Holland, who aspires to follow a similar path, spoke with Bridges before the latter left with USA Basketball to compete in the FIBA World Cup last August.

There was a piece of advice from the now Brooklyn franchise player which left a lasting impact:

“Everything is moving really fast, but don’t let anything slow you down and don’t let anybody speed you up. Go at your own pace.”

Holland is moving at his own pace. Comfort in competition was ingrained in his mindset early on. There’s a level of maturity present in his demeanor. There are steps of development still to take as he takes on the responsibility of becoming an NBA player, both on and off the court. But as far as first steps go, his pace, while normal for him, is accelerated compared to everyone else.

“I would embrace it for sure,” Holland answered when asked about the possible pressure of being the first overall pick.

“But I’m not really here for pressure or anything. I’m here to play the best game, and I’m here to make a name for myself, and if it comes down to me being number one, I’ll make the most out of it.”

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