Resilient, tough-minded Holmes finds home in San Antonio

Sequoia Holmes is introduced. Photo by NBAE via Getty Images.
Sequoia Holmes is introduced. Photo by NBAE via Getty Images.

A day after the final cuts were made, reserve San Antonio guard Sequoia Holmes probably received at least four dozen text messages from supporters and well wishers alike.

The UNLV alum had successfully made her way back onto a WNBA roster after nearly a decade, and since passing through nine different countries honing her craft as a professional basketball player.

Now, only a few months after a chance meeting with San Antonio General Manager Ruth Riley and new Stars head coach Vickie Johnson at a free agent camp at the Final Four this past March, there was a sense of fulfillment and redemption for Holmes.

And it was none too soon for a player who is so beloved in her hometown of Las Vegas that she had her jersey retired at her alma mater, Mojave High School.

Although her San Antonio team still has yet to get into the win column this season, Holmes is grateful for the opportunity to play the game she has loved since a kid in the best women’s league in the world.

“I told myself that after all the rejection and disappointments I would not seek anybody out trying to get on their team,” Holmes said. “If it was in God’s plan and they wanted me, fine. But I wasn’t going to make any more phone calls. Luckily, my agent was persistent and kept staying positive, so it motivated me to keep moving forward in pursuit of my dream to play in the WNBA.”

Holmes went undrafted in the 2007, and opted to sign with the Houston Comets because of the rich tradition that four consecutive championships brought to the city back in the early stages of the league.

There, she met Tina Thompson, who made an immediate impact in her life. Thompson, a former WNBA legend and three-time Olympian, was the only remaining link to the glory years in Houston that saw four consecutive league Championships from 1997-2000.

“She took me under her wing and taught me how to be a professional on and off the court,” Holmes said. “I still stay in contact with her and talk to her about certain things. She is somebody who I have always looked up to.”

Holmes started in three of the Comets’ 17 games before the longtime franchise that was once the pillar of the WNBA folded in 2008. This left Holmes’ professional career in limbo only a year removed from graduating college.

After being out of the league for a year, Holmes signed with the Phoenix Mercury in 2010, where she played in 15 games for the Mercury.

A training camp invite from the Detroit Shock followed the next season, but Holmes was the final camp casualty for the team. But rather than dwelling on it, Holmes decided to use the snub as fuel.

“While I was in Detroit (under current New York Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer) I gained a lot of experience on how to be tough because their team was a basically an extension of the Bad Boys (80’s Pistons),” Holmes said. “It taught me how to be tough and how to be a professional. But I admit it was very disappointing, because I knew I could play at this level. It made me push myself harder.”

Over the next four years, Holmes played overseas in Spain, Germany, Israel, Slovakia, Europe, Finland and Angola, and secured a pair of championships in the process. Then, in 2015, she took advantage of camp invites from both Chicago and Atlanta, but again was the final player cut from the roster in each circumstance.

Still, Holmes never wavered in her hopes of dotting a WNBA roster before she retired.

Sequoia Holmes puts up a shot. Photo by NBAE via Getty Images.
Sequoia Holmes puts up a shot. Photo by NBAE via Getty Images.

“I am a competition junkie, so I always wanted to be on the biggest stage,” Holmes said. “In the WNBA you are able to test yourself against the very best players in the world. But I will admit the rejection got tough because I knew in my heart I could compete in this league.”

With unwavering support continuing from her loyal parents and agent, Holmes surged ahead until Johnson finally took a chance on her.

“Sequoia has a great work ethic and she brings a lot of energy,” Johnson said. “We believe she is a great fit for our system, and I know she will be a great player here in San Antonio.”

Playing for Johnson, who suited up for San Antonio herself for four years before becoming an assistant coach, has given Holmes a great perspective on what being with the franchise could mean for the rest of her career.

“Being able to learn the game from a Hall-of-Famer is a real blessing,” Holmes said. “She understands everything from a player’s perspective, and has really embraced me as a player.”

Even though she has been used sparingly in the last few games after starting the first three in San Antonio, Holmes has embraced her role on the Stars, and is steadily beginning to flourish.

In seven appearances this season, Holmes is only averaging about three points per game in limited minutes, but her impact in San Antonio has already been realized.

Holmes best offensive output may have been a seven-point, four assist night in a 89-74 loss at Washington on May 14, but the highlight of her season for many Stars fans was the wicked block of super-rookie Alisha Gray during a home game against Dallas, in which she ran down the speedy Gray and timed the shot perfectly, sending the ball into the stands.

It was those type of athletic plays that marvel her teammates and solidifies her place in the league.

“For somebody that has went through some of the things Sequoia has went through to play in this league shows tremendous focus,” teammate Sydney Colson said. “She is constantly working on her game, she plays lockdown defense and she can really shoot that thing. Now that she is here, I am expecting her to have a vital impact on our team.”

Ultimately, Holmes’ success as a professional player will not be measured on wins or whether or not she makes an All-Star team, but rather the influence she will leave on her teammates and the young girls she tutors during the off-season for the AAU select teams she owns in Las Vegas.

Her organization features girls 8-18 years of age that travel to participate in competitive basketball tournaments all across the country during the summer.

“Defense is part of my DNA so that’s one thing I can pass along to the kids,” Holmes said. “I want them to be able to achieve some of the same things I have on and off the court.”

Until then, Holmes is content to play her role on a young roster that will be formidable over the next few years in San Antonio, despite their early season struggles in Johnson’s first year as head coach.

“Being here in the WNBA is a result of everything I have worked so hard for so I am extremely blessed,” Holmes said. “It’s been a long time coming and I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s exhilarating.”