Horizon League Breakout Candidate: Tanner Holden


Holden looks the part of past sophomore breakout players

Last season was an odd one for the Horizon League All-Freshman Team. On one hand, you had Amari Davis acting as Green Bay’s second option but producing at a level that has undoubtedly already caused the HoriZone Roundtable to receive pushback for trying to call him a breakout candidate. On the other hand you had three players that likely would’ve been vying for the last All-Freshman spot in previous seasons in Grant Basile, CJ Wilbourn and Blake Lampman. In the middle, you have Wright State’s Tanner Holden.

Holden’s 11.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game look comparable to several previous All-Freshman team picks who went onto stardom as sophomores. But the raw stats are just a part of the intrigue in Holden as a breakout candidate in 2021. Holden hit 61.1 percent of his shots from the field and 42.4 percent from 3-point range as a freshman. Oddly, the only shots he struggled with were the ones where he wasn’t defended; he hit just 60.9 percent of his free throws. Nonetheless, an effective field goal percentage of 64.2 is incredible for a player still getting used to the college game.

The fact that Holden was so statistically strong on a team that won the league by two games suggests he’d likely fit into the same category as Amari Davis if he had chosen to attend a different Horizon League school last year. Regardless, his production and the likelihood that the Raiders will finish at or near the top of the Horizon League should mean he’ll end up comparing favorably to several past All-Freshman Team picks who had breakout sophomore seasons.

While Holden’s awesome statistics and efficiency out of the gate are reason enough to believe he’s going to be a special player in the Horizon League, he probably wouldn’t be able to reach that level this season if not for the graduation of 2020 Second Team All-Horizon League forward Bill Wampler and Third Team All-Horizon League guard Cole Gentry. WORDS.

Rashad Williams averaged 10.8 points per game as a Horizon League All-Freshman Team pick at Cleveland State in 2019 before erupting for 19.5 points per game after transferring to Oakland as a sophomore. While he didn’t earn All-League honors, he absolutely would have if he maintained those numbers for longer and didn’t initially have his transfer waiver denied by the NCAA. Williams is a preseason First Team All-Horizon League pick according to both the HoriZone Roundtable and the Horizon League this year.

A year earlier, Cleveland State had another standout freshman who had a breakout sophomore season. Fortunately for the Vikings, this one actually stuck around a little longer. Tyree Appleby averaged 11.8 points, 4.0 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2018 before becoming a Second Team All-League performer as a sophomore. He averaged 17.8 points, 5.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game before deciding to transfer to Florida for his final two seasons of eligibility.

2016 saw two All-Freshman Team picks who erupted into stars as sophomores. Northern Kentucky forward Drew McDonald went from 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman to 16.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and a First Team All-Horizon League selection as a sophomore. Cleveland State’s Rob Edwards saw his numbers jump from 12.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a freshman to 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and a Second Team All-Horizon League selection as a sophomore. McDonald finished his career as the 2019 Horizon League Player of the Year while Edwards finished his career at Arizona State as yet another Cleveland State player to transfer away from the Vikings.

There’s plenty to suggest that a healthy Tanner Holden will make everyone look foolish for leaving him off of their Horizon League Preseason All-League teams. Few of the previous players who had his level of production were returning to teams strong enough to make an All-League selection as a second option possible. The departures of Wampler and Gentry allow Holden to naturally slide into a role as that second option as a sophomore. That combination should create a situation where Holden will wind up hard to leave off of one of the first two All-Horizon League teams.

Miss anything from Preview Week(s)? Check it all out below:

HoriZone Roundtable Predictions
HoriZone Roundtable Preseason PollPreseason All-League Teams
If we had an All-Newcomer Team…All-Freshman Team Picks

Team Previews
Wright StateYoungstown StateRobert MorrisCleveland State
UICOaklandNorthern KentuckyDetroit Mercy
Green BayPurdue Fort WayneMilwaukeeIUPUI

Official Horizon League Predictions
Men’s Basketball Preseason PollMen’s Basketball All-League Picks
Women’s Basketball Preseason PollWomen’s Basketball All-League Picks

Breakout Candidates
Dante TreacyTrevon FaulknerAdrian Nelson

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