Feb. 22, 2001
By BRIAN ELSNER
The Santa Clara
All good things must come to an end. Such is the case this Saturday night.
In a game against the Portland Pilots, four seniors on the men's basketball team will play their last collegiate game at Leavey Event Center and soon enough their college careers will conclude as well.
"It is always a sad night for me," Head Coach Dick Davey said. "It may be a little sadder next year when they aren't out on the court."
None of these four players are ready to say goodbye quite yet. Aspirations of an NCAA tournament berth and hopes of winning their last game in front of the Bronco fans drive these seniors to continue the success they began some years ago. Point guard Brian Jones, power forward Jamie Holmes, center Stephen Dely and point guard Dustin Warford compromise what could possibly be the most inspirational group of seniors ever to step on the floor at Santa Clara.
Brian Jones has led the Broncos from the day he stepped onto the court his freshman year. When he started the first game of the 1996-97 season against Kansas, Jones became only the third Bronco in history to start the opening game of a season as a freshman. It seems Jones has a knack for greatness.
"Brian has been a tremendous player for us throughout his career," Davey said. "It will be sad to seem him go."
After earning West Coast Conference Co-Freshman of the Year honors in his first season, Jones led the Broncos in scoring at 15.6 points per game as a sophomore. Everything was going great for Jones - until June 28, 1998.
While playing in a summer league game against other college players and even some pro-players, Jones dislocated his right knee cap in addition to suffering bone and tissue damage. The injury could have been career threatening as Jones was forced to redshirt the 1998-99 season.
Amazingly, Jones came back to earn all-WCC honors once again in his junior season by averaging 13.3 points and five assists per game. Despite the setback due to an injury, Jones has no regrets or complaints.
"I enjoyed all of the experience," Jones said. "I have played with great guys every year. The only regret I would have is if we don't make the NCAA tournament this year. It is every young basketball player's dream to play in the tournament."
If Jones is to make his first trip to the NCAA tournament, he will need the help from the Bronco post game and that means production from Jamie Holmes.
THE LONG PATH
In order to truly understand the obstacles Jamie Holmes has overcome in his collegiate career, one must know the journey he has endured. Born in Germany, Holmes seems to travel more often off the court than he does on the court. In 1995, Holmes enrolled at the University of San Francisco where he redshirted his freshman year. Due to a number of reasons, Holmes left and moved on to West Valley Junior College before joining the Broncos the next season.
"Jamie is better than I ever thought he would be," Davey said. "It is a testament to his work ethic and his determination that he became the player he is today."
Holmes' journey did not end when he got to Santa Clara. In his sophomore season, Holmes proved to be a valuable reserve post player for Coach Davey, but Holmes injured his knee in his junior season thus forcing him to sit out the year. Yet Holmes returned once again in the 1999-00 season to average 9.3 points per game, second highest on the team.
"I really have enjoyed my time at Santa Clara," Holmes said. "I am very happy with the way things have gone. It has been a great overall experience."
Holmes is enjoying this season even more as he ranks among the league leaders as a senior. Yet in spite of his recent success, Holmes still only has one thing on his mind come senior night.
"I just want to get a 'w' baby," Holmes said. "Just get a win."
Winning is important to all four seniors, yet there is one senior who stands out from the rest.
Dustin Warford may not show up in the box score every night, but he no doubt has an effect on the outcome of each game. As a freshman, Warford tried out for the Broncos as a walk on.
Coach Davey saw the incredible determination and hard work that Warford puts into every practice and every play, thus picking him out of the bunch to fill up the Bronco roster.
"Dustin works harder than anyone on the team," Davey said. "Whether it is shooting after practice or on defense, he puts in a lot of extra work."
Warford's hard work is not always reflected in games, as he played in only 12 games last season as a junior. The true value of Dustin Warford is found in his ability to inspire his teammates and also scout the other team.
"Dustin will call out the other team's plays before they do because he knows the scouting report so well," Davey said. "He is always encouraging his teammates and inspiring them with his energy."
While Warford spends his energy on the court, Stephen Dely has spent most of his energy simply adjusting to life in a new country.
Stephen Dely did not grow up on the playgrounds with a basketball in his hand. In fact, the senior center did not even grow up in America as he calls Pietermaritzburg, South Africa his home. Yet in order to follow his dream of playing Division I college basketball, Dely left his country to travel to Houston and enrolled in Second Baptist High School.
"I am just happy being on this team," Dely said. "Coming from South Africa, it was a big deal to play college basketball."
Dely excelled in high school as he averaged 24 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots per game as a senior. Despite his college career being less successful, Dely has no regrets about the experience.
"Things don't always work out as you expect," Dely said. "But I don't regret anything."
Despite the lack of playing time, Dely hopes to end his collegiate career in a positive light on senior night.
"I would like to win and also have fun," Dely said. "I just don't want to regret anything. I don't want to think I could have done anything more in that game against Portland."
All four of the Bronco seniors play a pivotal role on the 2000-01 Santa Clara basketball team. In addition, all four of them have proven to be inspirational for their teammates. Whether it is overcoming a knee injury, leaving one's home country to pursue a dream or working harder than anyone else just to be on the team, this Santa Clara senior class will be remembered by Bronco fans far beyond this Saturday night. Yet they will be remembered more for their heart, not for their play.