Holland is the Terriers’ man of the moment

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / March 18, 2011

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TULSA, Okla. — Being in the moment is the only thing that has ever mattered to John Holland.

The 6-foot-5-inch senior guard has never allowed himself to be paralyzed by the past. Or to get caught daydreaming about the future. He strives to remain in the present, on and off the basketball court.

Yesterday, Holland did not deviate from that approach during a news conference with Boston University teammates Matt Griffin and Patrick Hazel at the BOK Center, where tonight the 16th-seeded Terriers (21-13) will square off against Kansas (32-2) in the second round of the Southwest Regional.

“Obviously, with all the distractions and whatnot that go along with the NCAA Tournament, it’s kind of tough to stay in the moment,’’ Holland said. “But I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it, not looking too far ahead. Just focused on our next practice and watching film and doing what we need to do to prepare to play Kansas.’’

No matter what challenges the top-seeded Jayhawks present, Holland will not get flustered if things go awry. He will not become unglued if the Jayhawks begin to paste BU. He will fight as hard as he can, for as long as he can.

“He would be a terrific player in our league, without question,’’ Kansas coach Bill Self. “Holland, to me, has the potential to be a pro. He can do a lot of things. He can post. He can face. He can drive it. He’s certainly athletic.’’

He is a big reason the Terriers are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2002.

When things looked bleak for BU in the first half of the America East title game against Stony Brook — the Terriers missed 15 of their first 17 shots and twice trailed by 12 — Holland took over.

“You really can’t think about being down,’’ said Holland, who hit a pair of free throws with 2.4 seconds left to snap a tie and deliver a 56-54 victory. “You just have to think about the next possession and what you’re really doing now.

“It’s not really always about looking forward. You have to stay in the moment, stay in the now, and I felt we did a really, really good job of that.’’

Holland was never burdened by the fact that he — the America East Player of the Year — had been rendered a nonfactor for 17 minutes. He wound up scoring 23 of his game-high 27 points in the second half, including 16 in a row during an otherworldly seven-minute stretch, to help the Terriers pull within 41-40.

“It wasn’t just the points, it was everything,’’ said Griffin, a junior guard who transferred from Rider. “He was getting deflections, steals, diving for loose balls, he was all over the place. He carried us.’’

In more ways than one.

“He’s kept this program where it’s supposed to be,’’ said BU second-year coach Patrick Chambers, who brought in seven freshmen and three transfers this season. “We didn’t want a major drop-off, because if we brought in nine freshmen, you and I aren’t talking right now. I’d probably see you in another two or three years. But John Holland kept us on that level.’’

“He was amazing,’’ said junior Darryl Partin, a transfer from La Salle, whose 14.5 scoring average ranks second on the team behind Holland’s 19.2. “That’s a senior for you. He really put us on his back and led us.’’

Holland’s attitude may have rubbed off on his teammates, but it was one he took from his parents, Diane and John Holland Sr., retired school teachers who still live in the Bronx. The Hollands instilled in their only child a strong set of core values.

“I’ve always taught him to always be yourself,’’ said Diane Holland. “People will have to accept you for who you are, and in sports, just do the best that you can. No matter the position you’re in, just do the best you can.’’

“In general, he’s had a good life and he’s been taught to think positively and to be humble,’’ said John Holland Sr., who adopted that philosophy as a college basketball player himself at Iona. “But the bigger picture is not only being in the now, but understanding that the now moves on to the next step.’’

So when his son responded the way he did in the America East title game, said John Sr., “it brought a tear to my eye.’’

Holland’s humility came shining through in the immediate aftermath. Asked what mental snapshot he would take from that victory, Holland said it was of the journey he took with players past and present to reach that point.

Later that evening, when he walked into Case Gym to support the BU women in their America East title game against Hartford, he was treated to a loud ovation by the crowd.

One fan stood and pointed to the rafters, to a spot between the banners that recognized Drederick Irving and Tunji Awojobi. Holland smiled sheepishly and shrugged off the adulation. But as the school’s all-time leader in minutes played, and No. 2 in scoring (2,193 points), steals (200), and 3-pointers (252) to go along with 723 career rebounds, Holland seemed to cement his legacy, if not a spot for his No. 23 in the rafters.

“I’ve been with him for two years, and he’s a 2,000-point scorer, he’s a 700-rebound guy, a 200-steal guy, so I think he means a lot to this program,’’ Chambers said. “Now he’s put a stamp on this program forever. You’re always going to remember John Holland.’’

But, true to his nature, Holland preferred to remain in the moment.

“I’m just worried about the game,’’ Holland said Tuesday as the Terriers conducted their final practice at Case Gym. “I’m not worried about anything else that’s going to happen after it, anything that has to do with something that doesn’t matter on Friday. So Friday is the only thing that matters.’’

Asked if he felt deserving of a banner in the rafters, Holland took a glance at those hanging above him and replied, “I don’t know about all that. I just want to contribute to the university that’s been so good to me and I just want to help this team win; that’s the game plan.

“It’s not about anything else, or trying to get up in the rafters. It’s really more about just trying to help this team and this university and just putting BU basketball on the map.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at