Sophomore guard Kendall Holmes’ recent breakout performance testament to hard work


Eric Henry

DePaul forward Kendall Holmes holding the ball away from a Georgetown player on Dec. 19, 2020.

Kendall Holmes was only nine games into her freshman season before an injury forced her away from the game she loved. She tore her achilles, sending her home to have surgery and preventing her from being on campus. The road to recovery was hard, but she was able to persevere, coming back healthy and ready to help the team in the biggest ways.

Holmes started playing basketball when she was 5 years old for a small recreation league team coached by her father. She began taking the game more seriously when she was in middle school, playing travel basketball for a couple different teams before ultimately playing for a travel team called The Truth. During her junior year of high school at Benet Academy in Lisle, Ill., DePaul head coach Doug Bruno started recruiting her. By the spring, she committed to DePaul.

“[Getting to DePaul] has been a roller coaster,” Holmes said. “A lot of highs and a lot of lows, but I’m really happy to be here.”

When Bruno recruited her, Benet Academy, one the most respected programs in the Chicagoland area, according to Bruno, had five or six Division I basketball players on the team. He noticed that with six top-tier talents on the team, Holmes was the one that never came off the floor. Bruno realized at that moment the reasons behind her constant presence on the court, highlighting how special Holmes was.

“You start to notice why she doesn’t come off the floor, and you start to pay close attention to the little details and you realize that she is more than just a shooter,” Bruno said. “She can shoot, but she pays attention to details. She has a toughness and intelligence to her that makes her special.”

Upon her commitment to DePaul, adversity hit, changing the course for her collegiate athletic career. Due to Covid-19, her arrival to the school was delayed. With everything shut down, she didn’t know what to expect. She was stuck at home all summer long when she would normally be on campus working out, practicing and getting ready for the season.

“Coach Bruno would have us meet on Zoom and I would try to get to know my teammates the best that I could, because we were all in different places,” Holmes said. “I was working out on my own; constantly working on basketball, running on the treadmill, trying to do everything that I could to be in the best shape possible because I didn’t know what to expect when I got here.”

The injury to her Achillies added additional adversity to her freshman year. After the surgery, she couldn’t walk, and was bedriddenfor a month and a half. Doing school online from her bed while trying to get better as fast as she could.

“It was definitely a long process to heal,” Holmes said. “My teammates and coaches would check in and ask me how I was doing. I was watching their games on TV. I couldn’t be there to support them and cheer them on, even though I really wanted to.”

This season, Holmes returned to the court. But the road to recovery was not always pretty.

Upon her return, she dealt with many challenges. She was trying to get back to where she was before, while also getting back to the intensity and level of play that DePaul plays at. With the amount of running and all the top competition the team was playing against, it took time for her to reestablish herself.

“I wanted to put myself in the best position possible to support my team and put myself in the role that I need to be in for the team,” Holmes said.

Bruno knows that coming back from a major injury requires time for your body to recover and expressed his optimism for Holmes’ comeback. He believes that she is a chemistry-builder and said she has a glue factor that is important to the team’s success.

“Some players are bricks and some are the mortar that holds the bricks together,” Bruno said. “You can’t have a great building without bricks and mortar. She does a great job cementing it all together. She naturally brings the component parts of the team together on and off the floor. The team has more cohesion when she is on the floor.”

Last week in DePaul’s last home game against conference rival Providence, Holmes was one of the four Blue Demon players who scored in double figures. She was a pivotal part of the team’s 88-67 win and her performance was a testament to the hard work she put in to add to her journey of success on the court.

Holmes’ cohesion efforts paid off, creating the opportunity to score a season-high 14 points against Providence.

“[Holmes] is a great shooter,” senior guard Lexi Held said. “We needed someone to step up and she did. She works really hard in practice and it showed in the game.”

For Holmes, having a breakout game on her birthday was a special moment to experience.

“To hit a season high after coming back from an injury is pretty special,” Holmes said. “My family was there and they made little signs wishing me happy birthday. It was an honor to have them there and I’m grateful to be able to play in front of them.”