DAYTON, Ohio — Sitting on a small chair in a jubilant Fairleigh Dickinson locker room, shortly after experiencing his first NCAA Tournament win, the former Schalick High School star Mike Holloway Jr. was filled with emotion.
“By far, this is the greatest experience in my life in basketball,” Holloway said. “This is March.”
It sure is, and it is a time when lifetime dreams are made.
Holloway, listed at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, but looking much bigger, was speaking following Fairleigh Dickinson’s wild 82-76 win over Prairie View A&M on Tuesday night in an NCAA Tournament First Four game at the University of Dayton Arena. The Knights had trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half and were down nine nearly midway through the second half.
Holloway wasn’t happy with his performance, but he had a double-double, 10 points and 14 rebounds. Throw in four blocked shots, and it shows the high standards he has set for himself.
“Mike had a tough night and a great night because they were really gearing their defense toward him and he just kept balling,” FDU coach Greg Herenda said. “And he had 10 and 14.”
In the NCAA Tournament, no less.
This special moment showed Holloway, once again, he made the right choice coming out of high school, something that is often taken for granted. FDU was the first school he visited, and he committed shortly after. It wasn’t because he lacked other opportunities.
“I had 17 offers but didn’t take a single visit after seeing FDU,” he said. “I fell in love with everything, and it has to be the best decision of my entire life.”
Holloway, a four-year starter, had experienced the NCAA Tournament before when Fairleigh Dickinson fell to Florida Gulf Coast, also in a First Four game, during his freshman year.
“Back then, I was just happy to be there,” he said.
The Knights were one-and-done that year, but he says it was a great experience. Imagine how winning a game as a senior felt.
In a basketball sense, Holloway suffered heartache in March at the high school level. During his junior and senior seasons, his Schalick team lost to Pitman and Paulsboro in the South Jersey Group 1 finals, respectively.
Other than the result of those sectional finals, Holloway had the time of his life competing for Schalick.
“I loved the big crowd, the enthusiasm,” he said.
Holloway says he still hears from many of his Schalick friends. Shortly after Tuesday’s win, the texts came flowing in from South Jersey.
Holloway says he will graduate this spring with a degree in sports administration. His coach, naturally, is sad to see him go.
“He has been the cornerstone of our program, and people still want him to get better because he is as big as a house,” Herenda said. “He has got a big heart, and is a beautiful kid.”
Holloway says he would like to continue playing basketball somewhere professionally after college, and once his playing days are over, he has his eye on coaching.
His team’s season ended, predictably, Thursday night in an 87-49 loss to top-seeded Gonzaga. Still, he will always have the thrill of winning an NCAA Tournament game.
“To win an NCAA game and graduate in the same year ... ” he said.