Holifield earns national honors for stellar season

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Great things could be in store for the Lourdes University Gray Wolves men’s basketball team and Joey Holifield.
One could argue that that’s already the case.
The Cardinal Stritch alum, who just finished his junior season at Lourdes, was named to the NAIA’s All-American team with an honorable-mention distinction. He led the team with 17.1 points per game, shot 53.4% from the field and 79.2% from the free-throw line and also averaged 5.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
He surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his Lourdes career during the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference tournament and has scored 1,033 points in his two seasons with the Wolves. Holifield was named to the All-Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference first team for the second straight season.
“I was focused coming into the year. You’ve got to take care of yourself,” he said. “I worked on my game all summer prior to this season. That’s why I had the season I had — I prepared myself well, got instruction, took everything seriously and got into the gym.”
For the season, Lourdes finished 22-9 and 15-5 in the league, good for second place, something Holifield considers to be one of the highlights of the season. The Wolves earned an at-large bid into the NAIA Tournament but fell 67-58, to Georgetown (Kentucky) in the opener. Holifield had 19 points in the game, and fellow Stritch alum Little Anderson chipped in with 15 points. (The Tigers would win their region and advanced to the Final Four.)
It was the second consecutive season in which Lourdes advanced to the tournament. Needless to say, the team has unfinished business heading into next season.
“Going last year to the tournament, losing on the buzzer beater, and going back this year withan at-large bid, losing, it’s going to spark a fire in the team. We know things that we have to get better at, we’ve got to get tougher and be more physical,” Holifield said, “I know a lot of the guys are on board and things are going to change. We plan to go back again and have a better outcome.
“It was a little bit up and down (this season). We had to make some adjustments; we had people get hurt, but we all stayed in there and focused.”
Another highlight was the 85-83 win over Indiana Tech, which nearly won the national championship, falling 73-71 to the College of Idaho in the title game.
Lourdes beat the Warriors 85-83 on Jan. 11, taking the lead on a 3-pointer by Anderson with 40.6 seconds to play and maintaining the lead after he blocked a shot on the ensuing possession. Holifield had one of the best games of his career, scoring 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while Anderson scored 11 points. The Wolves trailed 74-66 with under five minutes to play before finishing the game on a 19-9 run.
When Holifield and Anderson played together in high school, the Cardinals reached new heights, winning their only regional championship in program history in 2019.
“It was great to play with Little again. We still have the same chemistry as in high school,” Holifield said. “We know each other well, it’s great to have someone you know at the next level. We have a connection, and to prolong it, I wouldn’t change that for anything.”
Holifield, who is majoring in sport management, transferred to Lourdes after playing one season at Oakland University.
“I just wanted to find the best situation for me and play somewhere where they wanted me in a system that could trust me and I could trust me,” he said. “Mainly, just someone believing in me.”
Holifield credited the team’s coach, Dennis Hopson and what he brings to the table.
“He’s a great coach. I kind of enjoyed having someone like him that played professionally and overseas because that’s what I want to do,” said Holifield. “He’s a competitor; he cares about us on and off the court, and he’s going to bring out the best in us.
“I want to play professionally overseas – it doesn’t really matter where; that’s what I’ve been working for. That’s the main thing. My dream has always been to play professionally,” he said.
Holifield and Anderson are helping Hopson build something special in Sylvania. The team has made it to the NAIA Tournament for two years in a row and is establishing itself as a good team, both in the WHAC as well as nationally.
In Hopson’s four seasons coaching the team, the Wolves are 75-34 and are on an upward trajectory.
During his playing days, Hopson broke the all-time scoring record at Ohio State in 1987, a record he still holds, and won an NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1991. He played in the NBA for five seasons, averaging 10.9 points, before taking his talents overseas, where he played in France and Israel, among other places.
Hopson graduated from Bowsher High School in 1983 and is arguably one of the best players to ever come out of the Toledo area. He got into coaching in 2007, learning from legendary coach Rollie Massimino at Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Florida. Hopson was there for two years before joining Louis Orr at Bowling Green State University, coaching there for five seasons.


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