76ers' Jrue Holiday: Boy to man to all-star

Posted: February 18, 2013

It's appropriate that in the city that produced R&B super group Boyz II Men, Jrue Holiday, the youngest 76er in franchise history to be named an all-star, is making that same transformation right before our eyes.

The transformation on the public stage is obvious. It began with the Sixers selecting an 18-year-old Holiday with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft following his freshman season at UCLA. In the three years since, Holiday has gone from a player who sometimes didn't even dress for games as a rookie to where he is now - appearing Sunday in his first NBA All-Star Game in Houston.

"One of the top-tier young point guards in the league, no question," said teammate Royal Ivey, who was here when the Sixers drafted Holiday.

Given complete authority over the offense this season, the 6-foot-4 Holiday leads the 76ers in scoring (19.0), and he's fourth in the league in assists (8.9). After posting one double-double all of last season, Holiday has 14 this season, including the second triple-double of his career.

Just how much the Sixers value his services was evident when they awarded him a four-year, $44 million contract at the start of the season.

But who is Jrue Holiday? Sixers coach Doug Collins says he wants him to become a more vocal leader, and Holiday, naturally reserved, is working on being more outspoken.

As he begins what could be a protracted run as an all-star, here are the things that have helped shape the 22-year-old into the player he is as well as the player he might become.

Faith

The text response last Sunday afternoon was short and to the point.

"In church," responded Shawn Holiday, Jrue's father.

Church is, after all, where you will find Shawn Holiday and his wife, Toya, just about every Sunday. They try to sit in the same pew as often as they can at Shepherd of the Hills Church, a nondenominational mega church based in Porter Ranch, Los Angeles.

"That's the foundation of what we build on," Shawn says. "We have always been a family where faith has played a huge role in our lives. I'm not naive. I know that you can take children to church all you want. But what they do when they leave, well, you just never know. But we wanted to give our children a solid background."

Jrue Holiday has gone through many rubber wrist bands, sometimes wearing three at a time. But the one that is always visible is the one with WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) on it.

Because he is often practicing or on the road, Holiday doesn't make it to church as often as he'd like. But when he does go, he often attends Citylife Church in Philadelphia.

Raised in the church along with his two brothers and sister, Jrue Holiday says that his faith is a huge part of the success he now enjoys.

"Obviously there are times when you don't listen to your parents, when you are looking for something in your life - you're searching. But God has given me faith and helped provide me with the answers that I've needed.

"I'm blessed to be where I am, but there are a lot of uncertainties in this life," Holiday continued. "When I first came here I struggled a little. I was just 18 and I needed something to hold onto. I held on to my faith."

A basketball family

The cliche, "The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree", is applicable to the Holiday family. In this case, however, the conversation should be about apples - plural.

Shawn, who retired from FedEx shortly after Jrue was drafted, played college basketball at Arizona State (1981-83) before transferring to Division II Cal State Los Angeles. Along the way, Shawn met and married Toya, who also played at Arizona State.

Justin, Jrue's older brother by 14 months, will participate in the NBA D-League's three-point contest. Playing for the development league's Idaho Stampede, the University of Washington product is averaging 12.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists while shooting 38 percent on threes.

The other Holiday children - all of whom went to Jrue's alma mater, Campbell Hall High in North Hollywood - also play basketball. His sister, Lauren, is a freshman on the UCLA team. And his younger brother, Aaron, a 6-foot-2 guard, is projected as one of the top players in the class of 2015.

Shawn and Toya never pushed basketball on their children.

"We wanted them to try as many things as possible in order to be well-rounded," Shawn Holiday said. "Jrue showed a talent for it at 2. But he played other sports. We never forced it on our kids."

Jrue, however, fell in love with the game. In 2008, Holiday joined the ranks of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as National Gatorade Player of the Year before going on to play one season at UCLA.

At UCLA, Holiday met his future fiancee, Lauren Cheney, a soccer star who, like Holiday, was the 2006 Gatorade Player of the Year. Cheney, from Indiana, was a member of the 2008 Olympic gold medal team in Beijing. She has played professionally for the Boston Breakers and is now a member of FC Kansas City in the newly formed National Women's Soccer League.

"She is good for him," Shawn Holiday says of his soon-to-be daughter-in-law. "They push each other professionally. But what's more important is they love each other."

The future

Arguments must have two sides in order for them to be just that. The side staking the position that Jrue Holiday is no longer a point guard, that he is a combo-guard masquerading as such, has no legs to stand on.

Just ask one.

"I like him. No, I love Jrue's game," says Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clipper all-star and an Olympian. "Me and Chauncey Billups actually talk about him all the time. We always talk about the young point guards in the league. I think a lot of times he actually gets overlooked.

"I love his game, I love his poise, and I love his athleticism," said Paul, who sought Holiday out before the Clippers and the Sixers played last week. "I love the way Jrue plays the game."

The foundation is in place for Holiday to have a great career. It could include multiple all-star selections. It might even include an NBA championship, something not seen in these parts in 30 years.

But whatever the future holds, Holiday appears to have the foundation in place for a great life now and beyond the NBA.

"He loves being in the NBA," Sixers coach Doug Collins says. "But I think that he's a guy that when his NBA life is over I think he's going to have a great marriage and a beautiful family. I know he's going to put his money away. He's going to be able to live the life that he wants to live because of the things he's doing now and how he's chosen to lead his life. Isn't that what we all want?"


All-Star Rosters

Eastern Conference

STARTERS

Player   Tm   Pos

Carmelo Anthony   NY   F

Kevin Garnett   Bos   F

LeBron James   Mia   F

i-Rajon Rondo   Bos   G

Dwyane Wade   Mia   G

RESERVES

Chris Bosh   Mia   F-C

Tyson Chandler   NY   C

Luol Deng   Chi   F

Paul George   Ind   G-F

Jrue Holiday   Phi   G

Kyrie Irving   Cle   G

r-Brook Lopez   BKL   C

Joakim Noah   Chi   C

Head Coach:

Erik Spoelstra, Heat

Western Conference

STARTERS

Player   Tm   Pos

Kobe Bryant   LAL   G

Dwight Howard   LAL   C

Kevin Durant   Okl   F

Blake Griffin   LAC   F

Chris Paul   LAC   G

RESERVES

LaMarcus Aldridge   Por   F

Tim Duncan   SA   F

James Harden   Hou   G

David Lee   GS   F

Tony Parker   SA   G

Zach Randolph   Mem F

Russell Westbrook   OKC   G

Head Coach:

Gregg Popovich, Spurs

i-injured, will not play; r-replacement


Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.

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