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Mount Zion’s Holder signs with Jacksonville

JONESBORO — Mount Zion basketball standout Jarius “JR” Holder made his college choice official Wednesday night.

Flanked by his parents, grandmother and pastor and surrounded by friends and family in Mount Zion High School’s media center, Holder signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Fla. next year. Something the 6-foot-7 forward said gave him relief.

“It takes a lot off my chest,” Holder said. “It’s a great feeling stepping into my last season here. I don’t have to worry where I go now and my focus can be on Mount Zion basketball.”

Holder picked Jacksonville over USC Upstate, Tennessee State and Southeast Missouri State. He said that the school’s location, academics and a chance to make an immediate impact were the deciding factors in his decision.

It also didn’t hurt that his parents were on board with his choice, either.

“It’s a wonderful blessing altogether,” said LJ Holder, Jarius’ father. “It seemed like a good fit and feels good to him. Anytime you can go in as a freshman with a chance to start, that’s pretty good.”

Holder averaged 24.5 points, seven rebounds, 4.2 assists and five blocked shots a game for the 4-22 Bulldogs. In the classroom, he holds a 3.0 grade point average and will major in sports medicine at Jacksonville with aspirations of being a personal trainer after his basketball playing days are done.

But as for now, Holder was grateful for his milestone and gracious to all who showed support.

“I’m just so grateful for everyone who helped me get here,” he said. “To all my coaches from AAU to middle school and here at Mount Zion, my pastor, just everybody. It was a long, long ride. Took me a while to get here, but I’m glad I’m here.”

His success on and off the court speaks to the kind of well-rounded person his mother Bonnette said he was raised to be.

“He’s always been a child that minds and is obedient,” Bonnette Holder said. “He’s a good kid, and non-confrontational until he gets on the court.”

In fact, Bonnette Holder can find only one gripe with her son.

“He doesn’t keep his room clean,” she said with a laugh. “Oh, and he doesn’t like washing dishes.”

Jarius Holder hopes to help the Bulldogs tidy up their fortunes on the court this year. With three players in the starting lineup 6-feet-5 or taller, Mount Zion coach Maurice Triche will be looking for Holder to help lead his team to just their second winning record in the last eight seasons.

The 2009-10 Bulldogs team is the only one to do so. That squad posted a 15-11 record and ended its season by losing to Dutchtown in the Region 4-AAAA quarterfinals.

Triche said he is confident that Holder can help his program take the next step up in his second year as head coach.

“The players gravitate to his hustle and work ethic,” Triche said. “His work ethic is second to none. He’s grown so much as a player and a person and now you’re starting to see those rewards for him, and I think for the team as well. How he goes, our team will go.”