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Gwinnett Grads: Meadowcreek grad Holt leads nation in scoring

A crowd of more than 5,000 Louisville basketball fans gave Middle Tennessee star Amber Holt her due two weeks ago, sending the visiting player off the court with a standing ovation.

They toasted the Meadowcreek grad for her 32-point, nine-rebound game, albeit in a losing effort, part of an impressive road show that Holt has put on this season while playing the nation's third-toughest schedule. Having monster games in tough venues has been common for the 6-foot senior, who is just as tough at home.

As of Monday, Holt was leading the nation in scoring with a near three-point advantage over No. 2.

"You look at her numbers and we're not talking about her going against weak schools," said Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Insell, whose team has played at No. 3 Maryland, at then-No. 1 Tennessee and has hosted No. 8 LSU this season. "Our RPI is 43, 44. She's doing it against some of the best teams in the country."

In a season of sparkling games, her best may have been Dec. 28 against LSU. Against a team that has made four straight Final Four appearances, Holt scored 41 of her team's points in a 67-56 upset.

She also scored 28 at Tennessee this season, 36 at Western Kentucky, 30 at Houston and 27 at Arizona.

"Amber Holt presents a big challenge," Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt said after a win over Middle Tennessee. "She's a competitor, she plays with composure, she makes good decisions, and she's tough to guard.

"The best way to guard her is to limit her touches. Amber is their go-to player. She is like our Candace Parker. She only had one turnover, and that says something about her game."

Holt averages 26.3 points, but also 8.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists, while playing a team-high 35.1 minutes per game (the No. 2 Blue Raider averages 30.1).

The three-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week's most recent game was a typical effort - 29 points, nine rebounds and a career-high eight steals vs. Florida Atlantic.

"She's played her best against the best players," said Insell, whose school has a Web site - 1AmberHolt.com - that touts her for All-American honors. "She's having to do it all right now to let our younger players catch up."

And she's doing it all while playing out of position.

Naturally a forward whose ideal spot is the wing, Holt has to play power forward or post because of key injuries suffered by the 9-7 Blue Raiders. She's held her own defensively against her taller opponents while creating mismatches for opposing frontcourt players who can't handle her quickness. When other teams defend her with guards, she takes them inside.

That combination has led to a boatload of points this season. Holt said she knows that she's leading the nation in scoring, although she tries not to think about.

"It's alright, but I really don't get into that," Holt said. "I just play the game. My mama keeps up with all that kind of stuff."

Holt was a two-time All-American at Southeastern Illinois College before enrolling at Middle Tennessee, a school she found late in the recruiting process because her signing with SEC power Georgia fell through. One of her classes at her junior college wasn't permitted by the SEC, and the timing unexpectedly re-opened her recruiting late in the process.

That's when Insell made a call and locked up a big-time player, who he expects to see in the WNBA next season.

"I don't think there's any doubt (she'll be in the WNBA)," Insell said. "Every game we've played there's been a WNBA scout at our game, and every game they've come to talk to me and they're ecstatic.

"She can play the 2 or 3 in the WNBA. She can score. She can shoot. She can pass. She's explosive. She has a knack for rebounding. What more could you ask for?"

Holt would be the second Meadowcreek alum to reach the WNBA, joining former South Carolina star Jocelyn Penn.

"I'd love to try (the WNBA) if the opportunity came up," Holt said. "I'd definitely like to try it. But right now I'm focused on finishing college and graduating."

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.