BY DENNIS SILVA II | email@example.com
Jaden Holt never saw it coming. Never expected it in his wildest dreams. Not so soon, at least.
And why would he have? Rarely does a kid, barely a teenager at 14 years old, expect to have a NCAA Division I scholarship offer before he enters high school, let alone the eighth grade.
But that’s what happened July 17, when Holt, a 5-foot-8-1/2 point guard product of Adams Junior High in Katy, was offered by the University of Tulsa.
Before he even had a 247sports.com recruiting page, Holt had a scholarship offer.
“I was really surprised,” Holt said. “I had no idea I would get any offer. I was like, ‘Wow.’ The hard work really pays off.”
Holt was on his way to practice when his father and AAU coach Lamar handed him the phone.
“I didn’t even know who it was,” Holt said. “The coach starts asking me which players I like to watch, stuff like that. I was just answering back and forth.”
It turned out to be a Tulsa assistant coach, the program’s recruiting coordinator.
“They’d seen film that they liked and really liked me,” Holt said. “They told me it looked like I belonged, and he just offered me right there.”
To many, the news was an eye-opener. But to the Holts, it was little more than a considerable step forward.
“He was very excited to get that offer, but as a dad/coach, that’s where I come in and let him know that, ‘Hey, you’re six years away,’” Lamar said. “It means you’ve got to continue to work hard. It’s not that he’s made it already. It’s just telling him he’s one of the top players in the class of 2025 in the country. But to stay there, he’s got to work extra hard. Now he’s got that ‘X’ on his back.”
Lamar runs the Rytes Warriors AAU basketball program. In the program’s 14 years, Lamar has coached talent like De’Aaron Fox (now of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings), who was with Rytes from third through eighth grade; the Boston Celtics’ Carson Edwards; and former Texas A&M Aggie and current New Mexico Lobo JJ Caldwell, among others.
As a first grader, Holt tagged along with dad to practices and games and watched players like Jamal Bieniemy (former Oklahoma Sooner, current Texas-El Paso Miner), C.J. Washington and Texas A&M receiver Jhamon Ausbon.
“We had some really good, quality athletes at the time, and he grew up watching them, traveling with them,” Lamar said. “By the time he became a third and fourth grader, he was on a sixth and seventh grade skillset and aptitude. He’s been in it for a long time.”
Holt remembers those days well. He didn’t just watch Bieniemy and Co. train and workout. He studied them, and then when he started the second grade, he did drills alongside them.
It also didn’t hurt that he grew up going against older brother Eden, a DI talent in his own right who recently signed to play at the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Holt was exposed to an elite level of basketball at a young age. He took advantage of it.
“I learned to stay calm and stay poised,” Holt said. “Through any situation, especially the tough ones, just stay poised. I remember all the trips we went on and how they carried themselves. They never did too much, never showed too much. They always had respect for others, and I try and carry that with myself.”
Aside from his cool and calm demeanor, Holt is gifted offensively. Lamar said Holt has had a knack for getting buckets since the fourth grade.
Holt considers himself a “pass-first guy”—he admires Chris Paul because of his passing skills—but it’s obvious he is a natural scorer.
“I can read the seams, the holes and the gaps on the floor before it happens,” Holt said. “My dad always taught me how to read the floor well. I’m able to attack and make my moves quickly.”
Lamar is the varsity boys basketball assistant coach at Episcopal High School. Right now, that’s where he expects Holt to go. However, the Holt family lives in Katy, the Rytes program is based in Katy, and Eden is a former Tompkins High standout, the starting point guard on the 2018 state finalist Falcons team.
But that’s the future. As for today, Holt now has a target on his back. One he is prepared for, if not altogether ready for.
“I’m just going to stay calm and be me,” he said. “Stay humble.”