MORAGA, Calif. – During the summer of 2010, Greg and Jackie Holt watched their oldest son, Stephen, leave their Portland, Ore. home to become a freshman guard on the Saint Mary’s basketball team.
Four years later, Stephen graduated and is making a positive impression with the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Summer League.
However, the Holt legacy at SMC continues as his younger sister, Ilyssa, arrived for summer school last month as a freshman on the Gaels’ women’s soccer team.
“The first time I visited Saint Mary’s, when Stephen was a freshman, I was in eighth grade and I fell in love with the place,” said Ilyssa. “I knew I wanted to go to a smaller school. As time went on I got to know more people and it just felt right. I’m really excited to be a part of Saint Mary’s for the next four years.”
Stephen enjoyed a successful four-year career at Saint Mary’s, becoming one of the men’s basketball program’s top players. He led the Gaels to four-straight postseason appearances, including two NCAA Tournaments, and entered the career record books in several statistical categories.
In addition to having athletic success at SMC, Stephen enjoyed his experience as a student-athlete at the bucolic Northern California college and looks forward to watching his sister do the same.
“The experience I had, both on and off the court, here at Saint Mary’s was tremendous,” said Stephen. “I built a lot of relationships that helped me along the way. For my little sister to have a chance at a similar experience means a lot to me. She will thrive in this environment, both on and off the soccer field.”
Stephen’s influence has been very important in Ilyssa’s life, both as a big brother and a mentor. She began attending Gaels athletic events while in eighth grade and was thrilled when the opportunity to attend SMC presented itself.
“Watching him here for the past four years was an influence on my choice to come to Saint Mary’s because the community here is just amazing,” said Ilyssa. “It is nice that I already have relationships with most of the basketball and volleyball team. I want to get involved with campus ministry and other activities and get outside my comfort zone.”
A tradition around SMC men’s basketball is its annual team meal at the Holt residence when the team travels to its league game at the University of Portland. Recently the dinner expanded to include the SMC volleyball team (Stephen’s girlfriend is rising senior hitter Samantha Tinsley) and the family now expects to host the women’s soccer team every other season.
“It is nice to have everyone come over and my parents love it,” said Ilyssa. “Having everyone there is really fun. They feel like all the basketball kids are their sons. And, now, with soccer they’ll have a bunch of daughters.”
Ilyssa remembers the feeling of when Stephen left for college, saying it was one of the saddest moments in her young life. So, she has empathy for what her parents are going through for the second time in four years.
“They were definitely sad when Stephen left,” said Ilyssa. “But, now they have an empty household. My parents are going to have to adapt to the changes. I can definitely tell it is going to be a little different for them. But, they are excited for both of us to move on.”