Ron Holland, projected 2024 NBA draft top pick, set for G League debut
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Ron Holland thought it through. Even after the 18-year-old star basketball player signed a letter of intent to play for Texas, he continued mulling his options.
The 6-foot-6 guard-forward determined a season in the G League with the Ignite instead of college basketball was his best option to prepare for an NBA career.
“They can just give me the blueprint of how to succeed in the NBA on and off the court,” Holland, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA draft, told USA TODAY Sports. “I trust them with everything that they had (on) their resume. They have put top picks in the draft and they’re succeeding in the NBA right now.”
Holland, who played at Duncanville (Texas) High, makes his G League debut Friday against the Ontario Clippers in Henderson, Nevada, where the Ignite make their home. The Ignite, who are not affiliated with an NBA team and serve as a draft prep program for elite prospects, has become a viable pathway to the NBA.
In the 2024 draft, three G League Ignite players are projected top-10 picks: Holland at No. 1, forward Matas Buzelis at No. 4 and forward Izan Almansa at No. 8.
That follows a trend since the Ignite began play in 2020. In the past three NBA drafts, teams have selected 10 G League Ignite players, which is more than any college team or elite program in that span. Four G League Ignite players were taken in the 2023 draft, including Scoot Henderson at No. 3; three were drafted in 2022, including Dyson Daniels at No. 8; and three were chosen in 2021, including Jalen Green at No. 2 and Jonathan Kuminga as No. 7.
Holland could be the first Ignite player to go No. 1, and he has adopted a pragmatic approach to the draft.
“Growing up as a kid, the obvious answer is that you want to be the No. 1 one pick,” he said. “But once you understand the business and everything about this, you’re here to have a long career. You want to go to the best fit, and that’s what I’m looking for.
“If that’s No. 1, that’s amazing because that’s two dreams accomplished in one. But if that means I got to go 2, 3, 4 just to get to the right team, then that’s just what it has to be.”
Holland is a wing player with the ability to score and defend. He thrives in the open court, possesses an improving jump shot, especially on 3-pointers, and had a mid-range game off the dribble. He scored 33 points in a preseason game against Australia pro team Perth Wildcats.
“My goals and expectations for this season are to honestly reach my max potential when it comes to just being down here and getting everything that I need up out of this,” he said.
The Ignite are set up to help Holland focus on individual skills, improvement and what’s required to be successful in the NBA, including helping with off-the-court business, such as sponsorship deals. It calls for maturity, too.
Holland’s mom, Tarasha Holland, liked the idea of her son attending the University of Texas and playing near home. But she also concluded, “It wasn’t an easy decision for me to lay back, but I know my role as a parent,” she said. “I don’t know basketball, so I don’t know what it is that he was looking for when it came to basketball. I had to realize, ‘Hey, I’m not the one that has to play.’ It wasn’t my lane.”
Like most mothers, Tarasha was also hesitant to send her son to Nevada alone and considered renting a home and having family there with him. “I frowned up on it at first. I kind of frowned upon it a little bit now,” she said. “But I think it’s helping him build who he needs to be in the long run. He’s being independent.”
Holland is enjoying the transition from student to professional basketball player — including making meals which sometimes includes chicken alfredo, a dish he learned to make from his dad, Ron Sr., a professional chef who NBA player Wesley Matthews hired last summer to make meals while Matthews and his family were on vacation.
“I wake up, go to practice, stay after to shoot, come home, cook, eat and then get back in the gym,” he said. “I’m here for a few months, and I’ve got to make the most out of it, so I’m trying to work on my craft as much as I can.”
Holland is also self-aware for an 18-year-old. He already is focused on his mental health. He learned the importance of that from his mom who empathizes with the pressure teens face today — whether in school, sports and work combined with social media.
Last summer, Holland conducted a youth basketball camp that also addressed mental health. Holland said he will shut off lights, put down his phone, do breathing exercises and find calm.
“I realized most players need an outlet too,” he said. “Players need somebody to talk to because you never know what they’re going through when it comes to basketball or with their family or with their girlfriend or anything.”
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