Jacob Holmes has proven himself the ultimate NBL team man over a 14-year career that reaches 400 games this Saturday night as he plays for the Townsville Crocodiles against the Sydney Kings.
But his selflessness for his teams, the league and players sets him apart.
Holmes has had a terrific NBL playing career – made up of 235 games in two stints with his hometown Adelaide 36ers, 64 with the South Dragons and now 100 with the Townsville Crocs – and received plenty of honours along the way including a championship in his rookie season.
However, that is far from what defines the 31-year-old, who has taken it upon himself to virtually get the NBL Players Association off the ground on his own and putting the interests of the league’s players, and the league itself, ahead of anything related to his own career.
As a result, there is nobody better placed to comment on what the NBL is doing well and what still needs to be improved on.
“What the league is doing well is that it’s actually looking at ways to get better. We went through a stage where we were content to let things go along with the status quo, and I think that was very dangerous and detrimental but now we are looking at ways to get better,” Holmes said.
“We understand the vital importance of Brisbane and of having viable teams that are sustainable and not spending too much, and falling off the radar. What we can do better is talk ourselves up more. We have everything that every other sport wants.
“When I talk to players from other leagues, they would love to have our participation rates, international success, a male and female sport as well as a strong disabled program with the wheelchair league.
“We have everything except that strong national competition so that’s where we need to talk ourselves up and realise that all the groundwork is there, we just need to tap into that and we can really flourish as a league.
“I truly believe that and that’s one of the main reasons why I’m involved in the Players Association because I see such potential for growth. My main point is to not talk us down, but talk us up because great things can happen.”
Holmes has every right to be proud of his 400-game NBL career on top of having played for the Australian Boomers that won the 2005 FIBA Oceania Championship and gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
But what he is most proud of is the work he has done as the head of the Players Association that was virtually non-existent before he got involved.
“The Players’ Association is definitely one of my big passions in life outside of my family and I am really proud of what the players have done for themselves,” he said.
“The way we have united particularly in the past year has been impressive and our membership is unbelievable, and we are always credited with having the best membership in the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance which is amazing.
“Our players are very engaged in the process and I think that’s because they want the best for the league. We want the league to grow and to push it further, and the players are such an integral part of that so having the players engaged is only a good thing.
“We are now starting to see the fruits of that labour and long time of pushing for player rights. I think we will see that even more in the next 12 months and it’s something I am particularly proud of so the Players Association now is very strong.”
Further illustrating how Holmes puts his teammates and team before the interests of himself is what is happening this season with the Crocodiles team he is the captain of.
Holmes has always been a centrepiece of any team he has played on as a leading rebounder and defender capable of scoring, but this season has seen his role diminish and minutes fall to only 16 minutes a game.
That’s largely because of Brian Conklin dominating as power forward and then Mickell Gladness and Greg Vanderjagt filling the centre position, but that doesn’t concern him in the slightest.
“It’s been a big change this season and it has been a huge sacrifice, but it’s something that has been both challenging and enjoyable,” Holmes said.
“Seeing the evolution of Brian Conklin into the best four man in the league and to have Mickell Gladness and Greg Vanderjagt sew up the five spot, those minutes aren’t there like they used to be but my role isn’t what it was four years ago when I was one of the leading scorers and rebounders.
“It’s now about getting this group motivated and it’s kind of the Rupert Sapwell role from the start of my career where I get Brian Conklin ready to bang bodies every week. I am getting a lot of joy out of seeing the growth of Brian Conklin, Todd Blanchfield and Mitch Norton, and it’s special feeling like I am a part of them progressing their games.”
While Holmes, his wife and two children have enjoyed the move to Townsville for almost four seasons now, part of his heart will always be with Adelaide and it was his first coach Phil Smyth and veterans like Rupert Sapwell that helped him to develop into the player he has become.
“Adelaide has been such a big part of my career and those early days in the formation days was what really set me up and allow me to do the things I’ve done,” Holmes said.
“I was fortunate to play in a successful team that had the work ethic that they instilled in me in my early days, and we had a guy like Rupert Sapwell who didn’t play a lot of minutes but was the best trainer every day and he just understood what it was all about to give what was best for the team.
“I will always look back on my time in Adelaide fondly but Townsville has been a blessing for me since then. I knew from the first day I was here I had to take the most of the opportunity, and I feel part of a great community team and it’s a great community for me and my wife to raise our two kids.”