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Marissa Holder eclipses the 2,000-point mark at Piedmont Academy
Marissa Holder
Holder (middle) poses with her parents after scoring her 2,00th point. - photo by Contributed Photo

MONTICELLO — There are many adjectives one could use to describe Marissa Holder.

Dedicated. Talented. Hard-working. Leader. Exceptional. Standout.Unselfish teammate. 

The Piedmont Academy junior has already reached many milestones during her storied athletic career. She recently surpassed another marker when she scored her 2,000th career point.

With more than a full season left in her high school basketball career, Holder may very well establish a mark that will be almost impossible to break.

“She is the type of player every coach wants, one who sacrifices so much striving to be the best,” said Gatewood coach Jordan Camp. “She fell in love with this sport and dedicated herself to being her best by spending hours upon hours in the gym. Not to take away from her teammates, but Marissa is the one. She is where all the strategizing goes into because of her skill on the court. She is the best player in GIAA AA girls basketball, no doubt."
The list of athletic accomplishments is a massive one for Holder.

The junior, who was the GIAA Class AA Player of the Year a season ago, is looking to guide Piedmont to back-to-back basketball state championships. The state title for 2022-23 was the first in program history and Holder played a huge role in that.

Holder excels in any athletic endeavor she undertakes. From fast-pitch softball to flag football to basketball to track to golf, Holder always competes at a very high level.

Excelling at athletics is a family tradition. Her older brother, Ryan, also surpassed the 2,000-point mountain. Ryan finished his career with 2,025 points, a boys basketball record at Piedmont.

By the time her high school basketball career is complete, Holder’s stats and accomplishments will be even more mind-boggling.

“I think it will be very tough for someone to break this record,” Piedmont girls basketball coach Michael Wilson said. “With another year left she may end up close to or at 3,000 points. Scoring 1,000 in a career is a huge deal. I coach really good players now who will come up short of that and that's nothing to be ashamed of. To score that many points, a player needs to be physically superior from the start, stay healthy and be mentally tough. Add the fact that Marissa missed six plus games last season with an injury makes the fact even more impressive. There was pressure on her from the start of her eighth grade season to be that player that takes this program to the next level and so much pressure from me that I felt really bad at times because of that. I asked her to score for us when she was an eighth grader and that isn't something that happens much.” 

Holder averaged 16 points per game as an eighth grader, and by the end of the year she had Division I level talent guarding her.

“I don't know any other eighth grader I've seen that could have scored like that against athletes she had guarding her as well as with coaches specifically game planning against her,” Wilson said. “For a coach, she's a once in a career player, especially at a school the size of Piedmont.” 

Marissa and Ryan’s mom, Amy, said big brother has been a big part of his sister’s success. Marissa has surpassed her brother’s career total but she is quick to point out his role and his help. She now stands at 2,057 points after the region tournament championship game in which Piedmont defeated Brentwood on Friday 69-50.

Marissa began playing baseball at age 4. Her brother Ryan had taken the field at age 6 and his younger sister was eager to do the same, their mother Amy Holder said.

“Ryan played recreation football, so she had to play recreation football,” the siblings’ mom said. “He also started in Upward Basketball in first grade. She wasn’t old enough to play and it killed her. So, she practiced with him and when she was finally old enough to play when she was 5 she was out there. I think Ryan had a lot to do with her interest in sports. She was determined to play everything that her brother did and determined to try and do it better. They bring out the best in each other.”

Marissa played tournament and travel baseball with and against boys until she was about 12. She’s played basketball at the recreation level, school and AAU since starting at Upward at age 5. She transitioned from baseball to softball in middle school and has played softball for Piedmont ever since helping lead that program to a state championship level. She’s played flag football at Piedmont for the last two years and has played on the golf team at Piedmont for the last two years. 

Her dad, Ron, started helping coach softball and basketball at Piedmont when Marissa was still young. She couldn’t drive so she was there for those varsity practices. Instead of letting her just sit and watch, her dad made sure she was part of the practices. She ran all the drills and did all the scrimmages with the older kids. It didn’t matter who was practicing, boys or girls, she was out there with them. “This helped her develop her skills and helped get her to where she is today,” he mom said.

Opposing teams have to scheme special defenses against her. If not, she will light them up.

“It has been an honor, and I mean an honor, to watch this young lady develop her skills over the last four years,” said Briarwood coach Buster Douglas. “Marissa is a perfect example of what hard work and desire can get you. This young lady, even accomplishing all that she has, has remained a true teammate who is always encouraging her fellow players. Her abilities and sportsmanship have also brought out the respect other teams have for her. The thing I admire the most is that she just plays the game and doesn't try to bring attention to herself even when she is the best player on the floor. In my opinion, she is the best player in any classification of GIAA girls basketball. To sum it all up, she is a great player and person on and off the court.”

What makes Holder such a special player on the court and in other sports requires a multi-leveled answer.

“It's a combination of about five or six different things,” Wilsons aid. “She has more natural athletic ability than anyone I've ever been around, coaching or otherwise. It's absolutely unreal what she can do. She has the ability to listen to instruction and implement whatever she is instructed to do and then she has a great work ethic on top of that. If she wants to do something she will work at it and work at it to be better than others. She is incredibly competitive and she uses any setbacks to just get better. You combine all those things and it just creates someone who becomes elite in whatever they do.” 

Lori Hines, who coached George Walton Academy in Monroe to the GIAA Class AAAA girls state title last season, has also been impressed by the skills of Holder.

“Marissa is an outstanding competitor on the court,” Hines said. “Her 2,000 points speak for that. Marissa not only can score but she is so smart on defense and her ability to get tips on the ball on a rebound or pass can stop the opposing team from scoring. She is hard to guard. She is smart, tough and always wants to win. Hopefully she will lead her team to back-to-back state titles this season.”

Loganville Christian Academy girls coach Cory Brabham is equally impressed.

“Marissa is a talented scorer and playmaker who makes game planning tough for all opposing coaches,” Brabham said. “Her ability to score is one of her biggest strengths. As soon as she gets a little bit of space she is able to raise up and shoot. You can see the softball talent come out on the court as she is able to rebound well and make the accurate full court pass. She is definitely a fun player to watch when you're not coaching against her.”

Despite all the individual awards and accolades, Holder stays grounded. She is not comfortable talking about herself, rather crediting others for her success.

“Getting to 2,000 points was a goal I wanted to make, but I couldn't have made it so soon without teammates that work as hard as I do,” Holder said. “We are in this together and we will do what we need to do to be successful. If that means, I need to score 50 or more points in a game to win, we will do that,but if I'm not shooting well I know I have others around me who can pick me up until I get back on track. Scoring this many points is a team accomplishment.”

Her family support also helps keep her on track. 

“Her family and the parameters they set forth are big pluses,” her high school basketball coach said. “Most school days she's going in to work at 5:30 at their business regardless of how late a game might have gone. Priorities and hard work allow her to keep things in perspective but also, in my opinion, give her the confidence to know she's tougher than most people. She plays the game like someone who would be really boastful off the court. She plays with a lot of confidence, and rightfully so, but off the court she is really reserved and really dislikes individual attention. She doesn't like to talk about herself or her accomplishments to many people but you know they matter because of the work she puts in to attain them.”

With still another year and half of high school to go, the future is still undetermined. Holder said she would like play basketball at the next level. She has also developed a love of golf and helped Piedmont win a state title last spring, competing with the boys.

“This will sound strange but after having coached her for as long as I have I think she can compete at whatever level she wants to compete at in whichever sport she chooses,” said Wilson who coaches her in basketball, flag football and golf. “She stopped surprising me a long time ago when I realized she can so pretty much whatever she sets her mind to do. I know we are a small school who isn't GHSA but in her career against schools from Georgia or Alabama who play in the ‘public school leagues,’ she has averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for those games. It's definitely a case of the bigger the stage the better she will perform. She's not scared of competing at any level but it will be more of a case of where she feels most comfortable.”

Wilson said it is an honor for him to coach Holder and looks forward to everything she will accomplish before her high school career is over.

“She's going to finish her junior year with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 500 assists and 400 steals,” Wilson said. “She's 5-6 and those numbers are astonishing at any level, for any player. She's 17 years old and has another year left. I honestly can say I won't coach another player, in any sport, who posts such dominating numbers. You put her on a golf course and she hits her drives 280 yards, farther than most grown men and she's only played the sport for a couple of years. In flag football, she understands route combinations and defense alignment and then can throw the ball 50 yards accurately. Everything I've coached her in, she does really difficult things with such ease it's almost insulting to those of us who have tried and simply can't do those things. Yet she does it all humbly and is so respectful that I haven't had any adult from other schools say anything negative about her and I think that is the best that I can say about her.” 

For now, Holder’s immediate goal is to win another state basketball title with the Lady Cougars.

Marissa typically has a target on her as her reputation as a standout player causes other teams to do whatever they can to slow her down the court. Often times, that means a tight defense and a very physical brand of play against her.

Wilson said teams can take it too far and says it’s all he can do not to get thrown out pointing out defensive playthat should be fouls.

“She’s able to keep her cool,” her mom said. “When you are good at a sport, there’s always a target on your back. There are times that I don’t know how she’s able to control her temper, but she always manages to. We’re proud of her for that. Instead of retaliating, she proves herself with her play.”

Beyond the court and playing fields, Marissa also excels in the classroom. She takes honors classes and is in dual enrollment classes.

Her parents say their daughter’s character is also something they are extremely proud of.

“She is a leader but humble and is an all-around great kid,” mom Amy said. “ She’s a typical teenager who loves to have fun with her friends. She has an exceptional work ethic. She works at Big Chic when Ron needs her to work. She’s on the prom committee this year and one of their fundraisers is selling chicken biscuits on Wednesday mornings. She’s up at 5:30 and is in Big Chic working to get the Piedmont fundraiser order done. Then she has a full school day, then practice or a game. She’s also super competitive. That trait comes from her dad. Everything at our house is a competition.”

Ron and Amy said both of their kids are very competitive but noted that recently big brother’s advice is being listened to more by his younger sister.

“Ryan was determined to make 2,000 career points and was the first player for Piedmont to do so but then here’s Marissa reaching it and still has another year to play,” Amy said.  “They have grown to like each other and actually get along. She listens to his advice now and that’s a blessing.”

So what does the future hold for the younger Holder? It’s something that’s undecided at this point.

“That’s a tough question,” Amy Holder said of her daughter. “Right now, we don’t know. We have told her to choose one sport and work at it but she loves them all. It depends on what season we’re in when you ask her what she wants to do. I think she’s leaning toward basketball or golf. Not that she doesn’t like softball, but she’s not on anyone’s radar because she doesn’t play the tournament-type travel softball. That’s a big thing that a lot of colleges look at. Some

schools have shown interest in her for basketball and golf. We will have to wait and see what path she chooses.”

Whatever that path turns out to be, rest assured Marissa Holder will give it her all and be a record-setting performer at the same time.