116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Jaren Holmes believed in himself.
Coming out of high school, the 6-foot-4 guard simply wanted to show the college basketball world what he could offer.
Trouble is, no one in that world cared. His relentlessly supportive mother, Gia, made up for that — and now Holmes is poised to shine for Iowa State after transferring in from St. Bonaventure this summer.
“She kept me going no matter what,” said Holmes, who legally changed his last name two years ago to reflect hers. “Many times I was crying at night, trying to get through it and not really knowing where I was going to go, what I was going to do. She was right there with me the whole time.
“I owe everything to her.”
The first leg of Holmes’ journey took him from Romulus (Mich.) High School to Ranger (Texas) Community College. He had zero Division I offers at that time. Once he’d finished a season at Ranger, he had a handful, but all at the mid-major level. Still, he wisely jumped at the chance to became a Bonnie.
“No slight on Ranger, but that’s a program that you’re really going to have to work in,” ISU head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “It hadn’t been known as one of the top national JUCOs where you get all these things, so I think every step as Jaren continued to work and elevate himself, more opportunity and more of those things have come his way.
“And what a valuable life lesson. (He had) the gratitude to just keep working at things, so that is evident with him every single day.”
Holmes, a graduate transfer, averaged 13.5 points, five rebounds and 3.6 assists last season at St. Bonaventure.
He played all 40 minutes in the Bonnies’ final game last season — and scored 15 points in that 84-77 setback to Xavier in the NIT semifinals. So he’s versatile and able to shoulder a heavy load.
“His leadership and his talk on the court is really tremendous,” ISU big man Robert Jones said. “It’s really nice to have a leader like that out there.”
Holmes likely will loom large in the Cyclones’ backcourt rotation this season. Gabe Kalscheur is the lone returning starter, but veteran backup Caleb Grill, Temple grad transfer Jeremiah Williams and true freshmen Eli King, Tamin Lipsey and Demarion Watson will look to carve out minutes, as well.
“They’re way more ahead of where I was as a freshman in junior college,” Holmes said of King and Lipsey. “They take heed of anything I have to say and what anybody has to say to them. Like a newborn baby, they’re ready to listen to everything. Eyes open wide.”
Holmes is wide-eyed early in his only season in Ames in part because of the journey to get there, but mostly because of the possibilities he sees in 2022-23.
The once unwanted, but now key player calls playing for Iowa State a dream come true — and it’s one that might never have become such without his mother’s unwavering commitment to it.
“She was the one who instilled in me to never give up,” said Holmes, whose brother, William, was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur baseball draft. “She never gave up, being a single mother, raising two African American boys in a country like this.
“So traveling from baseball games to basketball games — and she did that all on a teacher’s salary. I’ve never had to want for everything. I give it all to her.”