Basketball buzzer beaters are a rare occurrence and as seldom as DeMarkus Cousins hitting a three, but when they do happen, they often find a very strong hold in the hearts of those that were affected by it. It is even rarer for a guy playing his first ever home game for his new team being a part of a buzzer beater and witnessing the electricity of the arena as the ball splashes through the netting as the buzzer sounds. Rookie Tra Holder experienced this recently in Frankfurt for the Fraport Skyliners as teammate Skyliner lifer legend Quantez Robertson who is in his 10th season with the team hit first ever professional buzzer beater. In the last years there have only been a few buzzer beaters in the Fraport arena as Justin Gray nailed one in 2011 helping Frankfurt defeat Wurzburg while Antonio Graves hit two buzzers beaters one with Artland against Frankfurt and then dropped one with Frankfurt against Ludwigsburg. But none was as exciting and had as much meaning as the one Quantez Robertson hit over the EWE Baskets Oldenburg last weekend. The team were in the midst of a 8 game losing skid, were down by 10 points to the second place team and then to come back and win in buzzer beater fashion was a very special moment in the clubs 20th season. Holder was on the court and witnessed the whole thing. He was parked in the corner and could of got the ball, but American Tyler Larson had little time and his only safe option was Tez as he is called by everyone in Frankfurt except for maybe the passport control at the airport. “ It looked like it would go in. I fell to the ground when he took it and was so happy he made it. It was really cool, because it was my first home game, we were in a drought and we were able to beat the second best team. It was simply spectacular. I hope it can jump start our season”, stated Trae Holder. Seeing that amazing buzzer beater brought back special memories for Trae Holder as he looked back on his younger days and also what he has seen other guys do. “I have made two buzzer beaters. I made one in high school where we won the title. I also made one against USC with Arizona State. The one against USC was similar to the Frankfurt one. Against USC, we were down by 10 points, but had only 1,30 minutes to play. I also remember the one Kyrie Irving hit with the Cavs beating the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA finals”, stressed Tra Holder. The first week with the Fraport Skyliners has been very thrilling for the rookie while the first part of his rookie season battling injuries and never playing a game for Fiat Torino was rather unpleasant, but the guard wants to finish the season strong and help his new club as much as possible. He came into his rookie professional season having a great career at Arizona State overcoming some hardships along the way, but he learned to block out negativity and continued to work hard to achieve success.
Tra Holder is a 23 year old 185cm guard from Westchester, California which is a part of Los Angeles and is home to Los Angeles International airport and Loyola Marymount university. The American had a very nice childhood growing up in the respectable neighborhood of Westchester He also went to high school in a totally different part of town called Brentwood. Brentwood is a neighborhood in the west side of Los Angeles and best known for being the location of the Nicole Simpson murder and where the Bronco car chase ended in the drive way of OJ Simpson´s mansion. However Brentwood is also where Tra Holder began his basketball career at the Brentwood School putting up huge numbers as a junior averaging 23ppg, 5rpg, and as a senior 22.7ppg, 6.8rpg. At the Brentwood school he got a good education and was a star basketball player, but also went to school with kids from well known families. In the past the actor brothers Fred and Ben Savage, Jonah Hill and Maroon 5 also got their education there. Holder remembers his time there fondly and also came up a short list of fellow classmates that many will know. “It was cool going to this school and see another part of town and experiencing different cultures and making good friendships and connections with people. Patrick Schwarzenegger, the daughter of Barry Bonds and a Real Estate guy who built many well known malls in the area all went to my school. I adjusted well there and I ended up doing well”, smiled Tra Holder.
The American began at Arizona State in 2014 and went on to have a stellar four year career playing a total of 128 NCAA games. He showed the NCAA world that he was a very good player but had the misfortune of not playing for a very good team. In his freshman year he played 32 games averaging 7.0ppg, 2.2rpg, 3.6apg, FGP: 34.6%, 3PT: 24.0%, FT: 70.8. He scored in double figures 13 times and already showed his potential as a freshman having some big games in wins against Arizona 81-78 where he chipped in with 15 points and 8 dimes and 13 points and 7 assists in a 68-66 win against UCLA and had 15 points in a 67-62 victory against Stanford. In those 3 wins the young freshman held his own against future NBA players TJ Mcconnell, Stanley Johnson, Norman Powell and Chasson Randle. It was obvious when he began at Arizona State there was no way he could not avoid hearing inspirational stories about James Harden who made a name there. But it got even better for him as he got to know the NBA superstar during the summers. “James Harden wasn´t a role model for me, but more like a brother. I would play pick up basketball with him and others at his house and I would try to soak up as much as possible from him. He plays with the ultimate confidence. He is never worried if someone criticizes his defense or if he took a bad shot. He blocks it all out. He has gone through ups and downs in his career and has been able to mentally block it out. He never gets high or low, but just stays level headed and keeps working hard”, stressed Tra Holder. One could say that the way Holder talks about how Harden deals with nehgativity, he really is talking about himself. Seeing the mental side of James Harden at a very young age would help him very much as he went through some serious highs and lows as a senior. In his freshman year he would reach the NIT Sweet 16.In his sophomore year he had his break out year playing 32 games averaging 14.2ppg, 3.5rpg, 3.7apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 39.9%, 3PT: 36.6%, FT: 72.7%. He would score in double figures in 25 games and had his best stretch from December 28th to January 14th where he scored 20 points or more in five consecutive games. The only thing that didn´t fit was the 2-3 record in that phase. He hit UCLA for 26 points and Arizona for 24 points in losing causes. In his junior season he was able to improve his scoring as in 32 games he averaged 16.0ppg, 3.6rpg, 3.2apg, FGP: 46.3%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 76.8%. That season he scored in double figures in 26 games, but most had loses in games where he scored a lot. One of his most memorable games was his 18 point effort in the 83-82 win against USC
In his senior year he was able to make another offensive jump playing 32 games averaging 18.2ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.4apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 43.5%, 3PT: 36.9%, FT: 83.7%. But despite scoring a lot, he still had many ups and downs and this was the time where he was able to conquer his mental woes. Despite having a very strong junior season there were games that left him wondering why did that inconsistency happen. For example scoring 21 points against Stanford and then the next game not being able to hit the ocean against Oregon or rattling UNLV for 20 points and then being ice cold against Purdue netting only two points. The American noticed that something wasn´t right mentally in his game and thanks to assistant coach Rashon Burno, he was introduced to mental skills coach Graham Betchart. His client list is a who´s who of well known NBA talent with guys like Zach Levine, Ben Simmons and Andrew Wiggins. Holder got in contact with him and then listened to 4-5 minute lessons from the mental guru on an app called Lucid on a daily basis. The help from Betchart was supposed to get Holder feeling good and not getting down when there were some lows in his game. A big part of him being able to block out negativity was learning to become consistent. How often do you see athletes go to the extreme one day or even two or three days, but then take off the fourth day because that last day was so good. It is about staying consistent and that is something Holder learned in his senior year which carried him to being one of the best college guards last season. As soon as the American started to discuss his transformation as a senior with the guidance of Betchart, one could see right away that he took this whole experience to heart. “Most people just see if a guy can shoot or dunk, but it´s a lot more than that. If you have a bad day today, it doesn´t mean that you will have a bad day the next time. I learned to block out the negativity and just continue to work hard. I focus on working hard each day even after a bad day. Even after a good game, I work hard. You have to be level headed and I never relax”, warned Tra Holder. In his senior year he scored in double figures in 28 games and had some monster games like his 40 point explosion against Xavier or his 35 point game against Cal-Irvine. He agrees that his senior season was his most memorable time there. “I had an up and down college career, but my senior year we made to #3 in the country and were 12-0 in non-conference games”, stated Trae Holder. Holder who lists 2019 NBA #1 draft pick of Arizona Deandre Ayton who he lost to twice as his toughest foe in the NCAA has the fondest memories of head coach Bobby Hurley and teammates Kodi Justice and Shannon Evans who had a big impact on him. “Bobby Hurley was one of the best guards ever in college who won 2 titles with Duke. He was key for helping me make my skills better, gave me the freedom to play and also helped me become mentally stronger. Shannon and Cody were my best friends. We had the goal in pre-season to go to shock the world and make the NCAA tournament something that hadn´t been done in 4 years. They were both feisty guards and Evans was one of the most competitive guys I ever played with”, warned Tra Holder. 7
After Arizona State in the summer of 2018, the American had a very productive Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (Pre-NBA Draft) playing 3 games averaging 13.3ppg, 3.7rpg, 5.0apg, FGP: 45.2%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 85.7%. He was supposed to play NBA Summer League with the Philadelphia 76ers, but then didn´t as the whole scenario seemed a little peculiar as there wasn´t a real statement why he had been omitted from the roster. And when he was asked about the situation from last summer in January 2019, the whole incident and NBA talk was quickly avoided. “I want to play in the NBA. I like the situation I´m in with the Fraport Skyliners. Isaac Bonga made it to the NBA from here. I haven´t found my way to the NBA yet, but I know the opportunity is there”, warned Tra Holder. The American was fortunate to get his first rookie contract with Fiat Torino (Italy-Serie A) who was being coached by the legendary Larry Brown. There was a connection to Larry Brown. Holder´s agent from Wasserman was the GM for the Detroit Pistons back when Brown was the head coach there. The summary after five months was that Fiat Torino got accustomed to losing, Larry Brown was fired and Trae Holder didn´t play a second for the club as he was injured. The American spent some time in Italy at the beginning of his rookie season, but the shoulder injury he had was ongoing and he had a long talk with his family and they came to the conclusion that it would be best to get surgery now than later. He went home to Los Angeles to get surgery and rehabbed there. It was a tough time for him he as he did all he could so he could become 100% again. Even if he never played a game for the Italian team, he will never forget the short time he had with Larry Brown. “I was so excited to be able to play for him. But when he came to training camp, I got injured. I will never forget how nice of a man he was and how nice he was to me. His basketball memory was amazing. There could have been five minutes played in a game and he would remember in detail the first few possessions of the game. He was like a basketball dictionary”, stressed Tra Holder.
After getting healthy again back in the States, the American has started a new challenge in the German easyCredit BBL for the Fraport Skyliners that are playing their 20th season and have picked up 3 titles. “I´m very happy to be here. I have played three games in 10 months now. Everybody has been super nice here and been encouraging me. I´m very happy to be able to play for this organization. The coach has been great. I spoke to him two weeks ago and he told me they needed a scorer and now I´m playing”, smiled Trae Holder. He went from one losing situation in Italy to the next in Germany, but it was nothing he couldn´t master since he had learned how to cope with negative situations back at Arizona State. “Losing is tough. It is never easy coming into a new situation in mid-season. I didn´t want to interrupt the offense. I´m always aggressive even if I´m missing shots, I stay aggressive”, warned Tra Holder. So far his record in three games is 1-2. He struggled in his first two Eurocup games loses against Asvel and ratiopharm Ulm scoring a total of 6 points in 40 minutes while shooting 1/8 from outside. He faired better in his first BBL game as he contributed 11 points in the spectacular 75-74 Tez buzzer beater win over the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. He quickly found out exactly what his role will be with the Fraport Skyliners. “My role is to score off the bench. I´m 60% a point guard and 40% a shooting guard. I can be a good defender, be a good distributor and I always work hard. I will do what coach wants me to be. He wants me to be a scorer”, warned Tra Holder. He is a very quick guard that can also be extremely dangerous with his three pointer. He drew many comparisons to current Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young last season, but he compares his game to a real NBA vet playing over the boarder. “Kyle Lowry and I are similar. We can score and pass and aren´t super athletic. We have the same height and are both shifty”, smiled Tra Holder. He also has displayed that knack for unleashing pretty floaters something everyone will get a good dose of as the season continues. Even if his scoring is his biggest strength, he keeps working at being a better distributor and defender and he sees those two aspects of his game as hidden strengths. “Those two are knocks on my game. But I truly feel if I get the opportunity I can score, pass and defend well”, warned Tra Holder.
The Fraport Skyliners have a nice mix of old and new and two guards that the American will benefit much from will be Tyler Larson and Quantez Robertson. Larson like Holder is new to the team came the same time he did, but the big difference is that he has four years of professional ball under his belt and he has been integrated very well dishing Tez the ball for the buzzer beater and scoring 24 points in the Eurocup loss to ratiopharm Ulm demonstrating that he could very well be the new main go to guy now. Holder sees his new teammate also being that valuable defensive presence that could help trun around the team´s poor defense. “Larson can be that defensive dog. He did a good job on Cummings who is hard to stop. Defense is not always about stopping your man, but it´s about communicating, helping and being a good leader and he has shown that”, warned Tra Holder. He has been in Frankfurt only a short time and the first words about his new teammate Quantez Robertson was that he is a great teammate and so much more. “This is the first time that I have played with someone so much older than I. His leadership has a big effect on everyone. He really showed what he can do on the court with the buzzer beater. He is like a mentor for me. Whenever I´m confused on the court, he helps me right away and put´s me into better position”, said Tra Holder. Holder has been in Frankfurt now a little more than 10 days and he has already experienced a wipe out to the hands of Alba Berlin, two tough Eurocup loses and an incredible Quantez Robertson buzzer beater and surely a handful of hard Elijah Clarance dunks in practice, but the season is still very long as now the exciting phase comes with the question, “can the club turn their season around and still make the playoffs as that is the only thing that they are playing for now. Even if the club is looking to find some consistency and win more games and Holder is looking to find a groove in his game, it isn´t anything he wasn´t able to master at Arizona State and now with the Fraport Skyliners he is looking to find that fine scoring touch again off the bench and help his new team save their season.