Through injury and challenges, Holt makes his presence felt on the court


Senior guard Randal Holt dribbles the ball on Feb. 13. Kent State won against Miami 87-70. Photo by CHLOE HACKATHORN.

Tim Dorst

In late June 2012, Kent State senior guard Randal Holt discovered he had a torn meniscus in his left knee after participating in a non-contact game in an open gym. Holt had suffered this type of injury before — in his right knee — during his freshman season in 2009, which required arthroscopic surgery to remove and clean out the tears in the cartilage.

The surgery necessary for his most recent injury, however, was more of a reconstructive procedure, and doctors told Holt he would need at least four months to recover. To Holt, that meant fourth months of rehabilitation, four months of limited activity and, more importantly to him, four months of no basketball.

About eight months later, on Feb. 3, Holt made his 211th career 3-pointer from the left side of the M.A.C. Center court in a game against Eastern Michigan, passing former Kent State standout Trevor Huffman on the Flashes’ all-time 3-point field goals list. After missing all of the preseason, Holt recovered completely from his injury and subsequently secured his spot in the team’s record books as the end of his final college season inches closer.

“It’s a big accomplishment. I’m just blessed to be in this situation and in the position I’m in,” Holt said. “It feels amazing to know that I’m going to be around this university and this program for years to come until someone breaks that record. Just to leave my legacy here at Kent State, it’s a huge thing.”

Reaching the milestone when he did gained even more significance to Holt, considering how the season began. The 21-year-old guard from Cleveland had to forgo nearly all of the preseason activities he had grown accustomed to during his four seasons with the Flashes, and instead had to jump right into the regular season when it began, working as hard as he physically could to get into playing shape as fast as possible.

“Previously I’ve had knee surgeries, but I was only out for two to four weeks and then I was back out there,” Holt said. “This time I missed four months. I just had to come in here, get back in the gym and just try to get back into the swing of things a lot faster. Get the strength back in my knee. So I would say it was a little more challenging.”

Holt’s first and possibly toughest challenge after completing his rehab came during the first regular season game, a home showdown against Drexel in November. The game went into overtime, and Holt played 39 of the total 45 minutes, scoring 17 points and helping the Flashes come away with a 66-62 victory.

Coach Rob Senderoff felt Holt was not 100 percent back to form when the regular season started, but remarked at how Holt found a way to will himself back onto the court and still perform at a high level.

“I think early on in the season he was playing off of adrenaline,” Senderoff said. “Then he had to get himself back into shape and into the condition that he needed to be in. I think he was able to do that in a relatively short time.”

Since that game, Holt has seemingly returned to the form he is used to — his 13.8 points per game average putting him second on the team behind fellow senior Chris Evans. His statistics this season tell the story of a player who has vastly improved since his freshman year, when Holt averaged just 3.9 points per game in 30 appearances.

Holt said he felt as though he was a good player when he graduated from Glenville High School in Cleveland in 2009, but knew early on in his college career that he would have to elevate his game.

“I soon realized that there were a lot of pretty good players out here,” Holt said. “I had to find out what it was I could do on this level that I would be successful at. Battling injury after injury was pretty tough for me, but being able to come back from injury and finding out what I was best at, that helped a lot.”

Holt’s ability to take defenders off the dribble and finish around the rim are notable when watching him on the court, but his shooting ability is what makes him stand out the most among players who have come through the program. Sitting at 223 career 3-pointers with four scheduled regular season games remaining, Holt has a real possibility of cementing his shooting record as the best for a long time, going unbroken for many years.

Holt is the only four-year senior on the current Kent State team, and his experience, Senderoff said, has evolved into a great amount of leadership for a squad made up of mostly young underclassmen.

“He’s meant a lot to the program just because he’s been here for four years,” Senderoff said. “He’s really helped us this year in just providing leadership. Chris Evans is a great player, but this is only his second year here. Randal’s leadership has been very important for our team. Without him, we don’t have that kind of leader.”

Senderoff recalled watching Holt play in high school, and what he saw was a player who was not afraid to take big shots at the ends of games when his team needed him the most.

“He was just one of those kids who was fearless,” Senderoff said. “There’s a lot of guys that when there’s a big moment they shy away from it. He never has. There have been some games this year where he’s missed shots that would’ve been game-winners, but his confidence never gets shaken. That’s a great quality to have because it’s not easy to do that.”

During games against Ohio and Northern Illinois this season, Holt has taken and missed shots that would have given the Flashes the victory, but he has yet to lose the trust of his teammates in those kinds of situations.

As the team continues to push toward the Mid-American Conference tournament in mid-March, it’s difficult for Holt to look too far into his own future. But Holt said his main goal outside of college basketball is to graduate this year and begin looking for opportunities to play professionally, whether in the U.S., Europe or wherever an opportunity may find him.

“Playing basketball is my ambition, and it’s what I want to do,” Holt said. “So playing as a professional would mean everything to me. I haven’t looked into that at all yet, but if a great opportunity presents itself, I’ll have to jump on it. I’ll just keep praying for different opportunities to open up for me.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].