Ed Holland III was taught to be a leader.
It seems the 6-foot-5 junior wing at Friends’ Central School has also learned that sometimes leaders must know when to follow.
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That knowledge has come in handy for Holland, who has a lot in common with former Friends’ Central star De’Andre Hunter, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
Holland, like Hunter before him, was a relatively late bloomer on the basketball recruiting scene.
Holland’s first scholarship offer came in June while he played AAU basketball for Philly Pride, the same AAU program for which Hunter played during high school.
Last week, he added an offer from the University of Rhode Island, Holland’s 11th offer since June.
“He motivated me a lot,” Holland said of Hunter during a phone interview. “I kind of came from the same position that he was in. He played at Friends’ Central. He played for the same AAU program. He started getting offers around the same time that I am. And we have a similar kind of game, in a way. So just seeing how he followed these steps: worked hard and stayed focused, maybe I can do the same thing.”
When he was in seventh grade, Holland said he worked out with the varsity team. He also went to varsity games and watched Hunter intently, studying the nuances in his play.
“He had a really mature game,” Holland said. “He never really got sped up with the ball. He played at his pace. He was never out of control, and I thought that was really cool.”
Less cool was waiting for scholarship offers while his peers collected theirs.
“It was challenging just seeing a lot of your fellow teammates and friends get offers,” Holland said. “Knowing you’re kind of in the back, waiting, can be hard. But I was never really stressed about it. I always knew it was just a matter of time. I just had to just keep playing and those offers would come.”
His first offer came from Colgate after Friends’ Central played in a certified National Collegiate Athletic Association “live period” event at the Hun School on June 28.
Brandon Williams, Philly Pride’s 16-under coach, had assured Holland that recruiting would look different for every player.
“I told him, ‘You have to own your own path,’ ” Williams said.
Holland’s path has been eerily similar to Hunter’s. The two share similar styles of play. Similar injuries even shaped their journeys.
“I think he is a lot like De’Andre Hunter,” Williams said. “Just in terms of attributes and how they can affect the game.”
With more confidence, Williams said, Holland will play more consistently at his own pace, like Hunter.
A nearly 6-foot-10 wingspan and a passion for defense, also allows Holland to guard multiple positions.
He is adept behind the three-point line, and owns a deft touch in the mid-range. He also finishes around the basket.
In July, he used those skills to help Philly Pride win the Under Armour Association 16-under national championship in Georgia.
During that summer run, offers from Rice, Virginia Commonwealth, La Salle, Lehigh, and Penn followed.
The University of Virginia, which Hunter led to the 2019 NCAA championship, even expressed interest, Holland said.
Amauro Austin, recruiting and media relations director for Philly Pride, was reluctant to compare Holland to the No. 4 pick in the NBA draft, but acknowledged similarities in style of play and that both flew under the relative radar early on.
“I can’t talk about Ed without talking about him off the court,” Austin said. “He’s a great kid. Like De’Andre, a high-character kid. And with Ed’s grades, it’s just a matter of time before more schools jump in.”
In addition to basketball in college, Holland is also interested in studying medicine. It is a passion, ironically, shaped by an injury he and Hunter had in common.
Both suffered broken legs while in school, though their paths never meaningfully crossed at Friends’ Central.
In high school, Hunter’s broken left tibia cost him his entire sophomore season. He later told PAPrepLive.com that the injury was a “blessing in disguise.” The time away had afforded him a new perspective.
Holland broke his right tibia in eighth grade. Lawrence Wells, MD, the orthopedic surgeon who treated him, made an impression.
Holland’s father, Ed Holland Jr., said via phone that Wells mentored his son and once even took him to a lecture in Philadelphia, where Holland met other black doctors.
He raised his son to be a leader, Ed Holland Jr. said. He also wanted to expose him to people whose paths he could follow.
“Just seeing [Dr. Wells] as a black man, in that position of power, that position of success, gave me more hope and more drive to say that I can do the same thing,” the younger Holland said. “Similar to De’Andre. Putting myself in their shoes, replicating their work habits. Without [Dr. Wells] I don’t even know if I’d be able to play basketball the same way.