Holmes hits milestone in front of special fan

Ryan Holmes led Penn Charter in scoring last year and netted his 1,000th career point during his junior campaign. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

 

It’s always special to score 1,000 points.

For Ryan Holmes, it was even more special.

Last year, Holmes, then a junior at Penn Charter High School, was on the verge of scoring his 1,000th point. And there’s always a lot of pressure for a player to net that milestone. But for Holmes, he was under a little more pressure. He was playing to honor his friend and basketball enthusiast, Mark Czyzewski.

Czyzewski, a Lawncrest native, was a huge basketball fan and had taken great interest in Holmes’ career. Holmes, who lives in St. Katherine of Siena Parish, has been a star player since his grade school days, but as he approached his 1,000th point, he started feeling the pressure.

Not for him, but for Czyzewski.

“Mark was pretty sick with cancer and he wasn’t feeling well,” Holmes recalled. “He would come to a lot of games before he got sick, but he stopped coming because it was too hard. He was on hospice and wasn’t able to get out much.”

He did get out for one game, though, when Holmes was on the verge of scoring the big basket. And his favorite player didn’t disappoint. He came into the midseason game 10 points shy, and he scored it in the first quarter.

He immediately grabbed the ball and took it to Czyzewski. They celebrated and shared a lot of smiles and great memories. It was one of the last ones the pair ever had.

Less than two weeks after the game, Czyzewski passed away. Holmes has stayed in touch with the family, but he certainly misses his friend.

“When I was getting close to the 1,000th point, I tried not to talk about it or think about it, but Mark would always ask me and I would talk about it with him,” Holmes said. “He was the only person I would talk about it with because I didn’t like talking about it. But I loved talking basketball with him.

“He was so supportive. His family said it meant a lot to him to be there, and it meant a lot for me, too. He was a great friend. I was happy I scored it with him there because I think he was more excited than I was. I was excited because it meant so much to him. He loves basketball.”

Holmes will certainly miss having Czyzewski in the stands, but he’s staying very active with hopes of having a strong senior season. Also a punter on the Quakers’ football team, Holmes already has his milestone behind him. He sits at more than 1,100 points for his career, so the only thing he wants to do now is win.

Last year, he led the Quakers in scoring, but the season didn’t end the way he wanted it to. Penn Charter finished 1-9 in Inter-Ac play, 11-15 overall. But led by Holmes, the Quakers made strides as a team and now he’s working on becoming a more complete player.

He does that by taking the court all the time.

He plays in a summer league with his Penn Charter teammates, but he’s also involved in the Sonny Hill League. He also attends practice at the school a few times a week. He has to be an early riser, though. Practice begins at 7 a.m. Not exactly ideal, that is unless your goal is to become a great player.

“I don’t mind it at all, I actually like it,” said Holmes, who lives in Torresdale. “I love playing basketball, it doesn’t really matter to me when I’m playing. We practice hard and a lot because we want to have a better season.”

Holmes hopes to have a strong senior year for many reasons. Obviously, he’d like to go out on top. He’d also like to get a scholarship to continue his basketball career beyond his high school days. But he’s also exceptionally proud of playing for Penn Charter and hopes to leave the program in great shape.

Jim “Flipper” Phillips was the coach at Penn Charter when Holmes decided to go there. He stepped down after Holmes’ sophomore year. Because of that, Holmes considered transferring, but decided to stay put because he loves the school and appreciates the education he’s receiving. But after meeting his new coach, he’s happy he made that decision.

“Coach (John Owens) has been great, I love playing for him,” said Holmes, whose brother Shane is a star soccer player at Holy Family. “The school did ask me when they were looking for a coach. He’s a great coach. We have a great relationship.

“I didn’t want to transfer because I love the school, but I thought about it because you never know when a new coach comes in. But this has been great. I’ve been lucky to have two very good coaches here. (Owens) has been so good for me and the program. There was a lot of tradition here with Flipper, but it’s great now, too.”

He’s also happy to be getting a great education, and he credits that to the teachers and the school’s size.

“I have some classes with four people in them and the most a class will have is 12,” Holmes said. “The school is great. The academics are really good. They’re tough. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be and it was really rough at first, but I’m a better student now because of it.”

He’s now motivated for a great senior year.

“I think we can be really good this year,” Holmes said. “We’re all working really hard. We could have a good season this year.”