Wheelersburg’s Holden narrows college choices

August 21, 2018

Wheelersburg's Tanner Holden preps to play in a basketball game against Greenup County High School.

WHEELERSBURG, Ohio — It’s Marshall University vs. Winthrop University, not on the court or field, but in the recruiting battle for Wheelersburg High School basketball and football star Tanner Holden.

The 6-foot-6, 185-pound basketball small forward and football wide receiver said he has essentially narrowed his college choices to the Thundering Herd and Eagles. While Holden said he favors those two schools, he hasn’t necessarily eliminated others. The son of former Marshall basketball star Rodney Holden has, however, chosen to pursue basketball over football. That’s a significant decision for a player who helped Wheelersburg to the Division V state football championship last season, has visited Ohio State, earned scholarship offers from Mid-American Conference schools and was the lone junior among 2017′s Mr. Football Award finalists in Ohio.

“I like Marshall and Winthrop,” Holden said. “They both have great coaching staffs who are really down to earth and are straight up and don’t sugarcoat things. Both are programs that are rising. That Marshall made the NCAA tournament and won a game last year is great.”

If because Holden’s dad was a standout forward when Marshall was a Southern Conference power in the 1980s gives the Herd an edge, he isn’t revealing that. Holden, though, said he likes it that basketball has made a resurgence under coach Dan D’Antoni at Marshall.

“When my dad played there it was a basketball school,” Holden said. “Wherever I go will have to be a good fit.”

Holden averaged 17.6 points and 11 rebounds per game last season in earning first-team all-state honors in Division III. He inherited his father’s high-flying jumping ability, but is more than just a dunker. Holden is a strong shooter from 3-point range. He said he also inherited some of his athletic ability from his mother, Tammy, who was a

cheerleader in high school.

For now, though, Holden is concentrating on football, particularly Friday’s 7 p.m. home game with Ironton. Holden said he hopes for a victory that helps propel the Pirates to a second consecutive state championship.

“A lot of people doubted us, being from southern Ohio, whether we could compete with those big-city schools from Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland and such,” Holden said. “Winning was a great weight off our shoulders. We lost a tough playoff game my sophomore year, so to win it last year was huge for the seniors and the coaches.”

Wheelersburg defeated Pemberville Eastwood 21-14 in overtime in the 2017 state title game. Holden said he would like to make it two in a row.

“We’re going to try,” he said.

“We go into every game with the mindset of last year. We knew we were really good last year and winning it all was great, but that was last year and we have to put that behind us.”

Holden, whose sister Sydney plays basketball at the University of Rio Grande, said he learned a great deal from her recruiting process and was helped immensely by his dad. In fact, when Holden refers to the decision to play basketball over football, he uses the pronoun “we.” Still, he said the final call was his.

“I know in our community there are a lot of football junkies, but I’ve always loved basketball,” Holden said. “We’ve had to spend all that money through the years on basketball and it would be a shame to waste that, now.

“Why not play both? “A few colleges told me I could do that,” Holden said. “Academically, though, that would be tough, so I’m going to stick with basketball.”

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