HOLT—Upon entering the Holt High School gymnasium, it’s clear that something special is happening. It’s that time of year where basketball season is just around the corner, and teams are deep into open gym practices, conditioning, and weight lifting.
In Holt’s gym, it is impossible to miss the presence of Jaron Faulds, the team’s 6-10, 215-pound star center. Faulds, the tallest student in the high school, will be the one towering over everyone else, helping his teammates with their shots, and telling everyone to warm-up - essentially everything a coach wants from their senior captain.
During an open gym practice, Faulds was talking to two freshmen while everyone else was putting on their shoes and warming up. He looked like a skyscraper standing next to the rookies, and they both wanted Faulds to show off his dunking skills.
So he did.
Faulds threw down a 360-degree slam, impressing the two freshmen - who can’t even touch the backboard, let alone the rim.
It’s easy to see why so many universities recruited Faulds: his height, ability to score with his back to the basket, shooting touch, and his academics and character. Faulds, a four-star recruit, committed to Columbia University in early July. He had many other offers and considered DePaul, Oakland, Central Michigan, Lehigh, and others.
Faulds, who committed to a school that doesn’t give out athletic scholarships, said academics was one of the reasons he decided to go to Columbia.
“I’ve always talked to my family about how academics are a key role and how we have to take that into account when I make my decision,” Faulds, who is thinking about studying finance or accounting in college, said. “I did, because Columbia is a really good academic program. Most people don’t think the Ivy League is as competitive for basketball, but they’ve gotten a lot more competitive recently. A lot of the top players in the country are starting to go to Ivy League schools.”
When he was in eighth grade, Faulds stood about 6-4. He was walking in the hall and saw a little girl trip and fall, sending her papers flying everywhere. Faulds got down on his knees and helped the girl grab her papers, binders, and books.
Holt basketball head coach Matt Essell said Faulds might be the best player he has ever coached in terms of character.“He’s always doing the right thing, he’s a tremendous student, he’s really grown into being a leader,” Essell said. “He’s been with me on the varsity team for four years now. He started off pretty quiet and shy, but he really developed a voice. He does all the things you’d want a kid to do.”
Faulds and the three other captains built a winning culture over the summer. It doesn’t matter if someone scores 20 points, it’s more about if the team wins.
Last year, Holt was 10-10 overall and 6-8 in league play. Faulds is excited for his senior season and believes they can be better than last year. Holt opens the season by hosting Waverly on Dec. 6.
Faulds may stand out for being tall at school, but at home, his stature is a little less obvious. The height comes from his dad’s side of the family. Faulds’ dad is 6-8, while his mom is an average 5-6. His older brother stands 6-4.
Being tall has caused some challenges for Faulds. While driving, he has to recline his seat to the degree so he will not hit his head on roof of the car. This low-riding pose means that when he looks out his windows, he’s actually looking out the passenger windows. He also has to watch out for doors and chandeliers. When Faulds first moved into his mom’s house, he walked into the kitchen and hit the chandelier with his head. The fixture shattered, and he was fine, but not something that happens to a lot of people.
His height is not an issue on the basketball court, particularly in blocking shots.
Even though centers are usually known for their shot blocking, Faulds believes there are no longer true centers. The game has evolved to where everyone, no matter what position, has to make jump shots.
“I feel like all bigs are stretch fives, stretch centers,” Faulds said. “So, you have to develop your outside game to be really tough to stop. When a 6-foot-10 guy is hitting mid-range shots, and 3-pointers, it’s really tough to guard. If I can develop a shot, then it can really change the game for me.”
Being a stretch five means Faulds is the primary focus for other teams, through double and triple teams. As a result, he was forced to pass before he got trapped. Faulds has put in extra work in the weight room and gym to get stronger and more skilled to deal with the extra attention.
“During his first year, all he did was catch little drop offs from guards and lay them in, or score off offensive rebounds,” Essell said. “Each year he has added new skills to his game. I do think he will be able to play out of the high post a little more and will kind of step out to take shots. He really does make a big jump every year in his game.”
Holt athletic director Renee Sadler said it has been a pleasure watching him grow from an eager freshman to a confident senior.
“Each year he has made huge achievements in speed, athleticism, basketball IQ, and overall court awareness,” Sadler said.