PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – Peekskill High School boys basketball star Laron Holt is The Peekskill Daily Voice Athlete of the Month for February after leading the Red Devils to a No. 5 seed in the Section 1 Class A tournament and helping Peekskill reach the semifinals at the Westchester County Center.
The 6-foot-6 junior has played AAU basketball for years, but this season was his first as a member of a high school varsity basketball team. He transferred to Peekskill from John F. Kennedy in New York City last year.
“I’ve loved basketball since I was a little kid,” Holt said. “When I got here, everybody focused me on basketball and schoolwork and I decided to play for the P.”
Peekskill head coach Lou Panzanaro saw Holt play only once in an open gym before he tried out for the Red Devils. But it quickly became apparent to the legendary coach that he had acquired a special player.
“He just had natural instincts and natural ability,” Panzanaro said. “I was just amazed at how fast he picked things up. … His development with us came a lot sooner that I thought it would.”
He thought it would take Holt time to learn the offensive sets and defensive schemes, but the junior impressed in his first varsity game against Poughkeepsie in December when he scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Holt took on more of a point guard role for the Red Devils even though he started as a forward. He averaged 10 points per game and led the team in rebounds.
The junior played his best game against Albertus Magnus in the quarterfinals, and the Red Devils likely would not have reached the County Center without him.
“It was Laron in particular in the Albertus Magnus game when they started to press and pressure us, he has such good vision that he was able to break the press with his ball handling,” Panzanaro said.
Holt said he simply tried to calm the team down and took it upon himself to lead the charge.
“When you’ve got one person ahead of the team taking control, everything sets in and everybody goes with the flow,” Holt said.
Despite his late start on a varsity squad, Holt said he felt no awkwardness when he walked into the Peekskill locker room.
“I’m used to being with other people, and getting with the team as a family,” Holt said. "Once you play your first game with them, have your first practice, that’s when it all sets in.”
The Student-Athlete of the Month is chosen by the sports reporters and editors of The Daily Voice.