Jonathan Holton Motivated, Eager to Begin Play at WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Jonathan Holton Motivated, Eager to Begin Play at WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

It is one thing to be talented. It is quite another to be motivated. Jonathan Holton is both as he gets set to finally take the court for West Virginia in the fall.

The 6-foot-7, 215-pound junior thought for sure that he would be able to join his teammates at the start of Big 12 Conference play this past season, but the NCAA had different plans, denying his waiver on Jan. 9.

All of the work that he had put in with the Mountaineers would have to stay in the practice gym and any impact he could have on a game would come from the sideline.

"It was very tough," Holton said in an interview for The Bob Huggins Show. "I got very mad, angry, cried a little bit, but I prayed and everything worked out to my best."

Holton did not get through it alone. Huggins and the other coaches and players were there to lift him up, knowing how important it was to the junior college transfer that he get on the court, and knowing how devastated he was that he had been temporarily denied that opportunity.

"No player who is as competitive as me wants to sit out and just practice every day. But as I was sitting out, I was getting better," said Holton. "My teammates, my coaches kept motivating me to keep going and encouraging me to go to class, study hall, get your grades and you'll be back next year. They kept giving me hope, hope, hope. I never lost hope."

Losing hope isn't in Holton's blood. He found out at a young age that not everything in life is handed to a person. It must be fought for if it is worth having. He didn't need to look any further than his own family to see that lesson first hand.

"I learned from my mother as a young kid. She's got 10 kids and she didn't have a job, so she had to really go out there and work to feed us," said Holton. "Every opportunity I get, I try to do my best, go hard and motivate myself to be the best that I can be."

His teammates saw that drive every single day. When his eligibility was still in question in the beginning of the year, they spoke about what kind of energy he brought to every aspect of their collective training. Whether it was in the weight room or a mundane drill in practice, his presence was always felt.

"We know how bad he wants to play," said Juwan Staten. "He's been a part of everything, except for the games and the road trips, so just to have him on the court will lift our spirits, along with the way he plays. He's a great player, he's active, he has a motor like no player I've ever been around and he's able to do a lot of things."

Basketball was never the problem. Holton struggled to transfer that same enthusiasm to his class work and the results showed in his grades. Whether in his freshman year at the University of Rhode Island or as a sophomore at Palm Beach State Community College, his focus in the classroom was nowhere near what it was on the court.

At West Virginia University, the message finally stuck and the payoff was clear.

"You need grades in order to play and I kind of found that out the hard way," said Holton. "This is the first year that I actually made Dean's List. I made As and Bs – the first time I ever did it in my life. The coaches, the support system I have here are really important. They really help me out. I've got to go to every class or I'm flipping a tire, so I've got to go to class. I just learned a lot. Now, going to class, everything like that comes easy."

There are probably a number of college students who could benefit from the motivation that comes with flipping a tire if they were to miss a class.

Holton believes that the troubles he has had with education are behind him. No, the work itself may not be easy, but he understands now that it is necessary. He prefers to see the year sitting out as a blessing in disguise as he now has the chance to join a far more experienced group when the Mountaineers begin the 2014-15 season.

"I feel like we got more energy and upside to help out with rebounding, blocked shots, defense and scoring more in the paint," said Holton. "Devin [Williams] and Brandon [Watkins], they're going to be sophomores and they'll have more experience on how to really play the game on a high level."

As for Holton himself, he has high expectations for what he can accomplish when surrounded by the teammates who he practiced with these past few months. Asked what fans should expect when he suits up in the old gold and blue, Holton did not hesitate before responding.

"A double-double," he said, feeling that no further explanation was necessary.

At Palm Beach State, Holton averaged 17.5 points and 14.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 39.6 percent from 3-point range. With Rhode Island as a freshman, he averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds and was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team.

With the help from Huggins and the rest of the staff, Holton believes he can bring the same type of results to the Big 12.

"I played mid-major, I played JUCO and now I'm at high-major. It's more competitive here and dealing with a more competitive coach, he stays on you and makes sure you're doing the right things all the time," he said. "I can definitely guarantee myself a double-double."

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