Shay Holmes isn’t taking basketball for granted anymore – a mistake she said led to a premature end to her playing days in Europe.
“I’ve taken the attitude that I’m playing every game like it’s my last game,” she said.
The 6-0 forward is coming off two big efforts for the Oklahoma Warriors in two games in San Antonio last weekend. She had 31 points and 9 rebounds in an 80-74 win against the San Antonio Troopers and 22 points and 7 rebounds in a 77-56 victory against the Dallas Assist.
On Monday, she experienced a fluid buildup on her right knee.
“I’ve never had any serious injuries and have always had a high pain tolerance, but (Tuesday) I had to use a crutch because I could hardly bend it, but I’m feeling a lot better today,” she said. “I’m going to see a doctor just in case and hopefully it’s not anything major.”
The Warriors (2-1) definitely need her in uniform with the weekend bringing with it their home debut against the Kansas City Stampede at 8 p.m. Saturday, with the Killeen Force the opponent for a noon game on Sunday, both games at the Civic Center.
With some healing, she hopes that’ll be the case.
“We really began to come together,” she said. “We were a complete team – got good guard play, our defense was so much better this time around and while we didn’t start well in either game we did a good job recovering in both games. We’re really just now finding a groove and I hope we can continue that.”
Holmes was one of those who stood to lose the most through an organizational shakeup that threatened to derail this team and its season before it got going. She gave up a job and moved with her daughter from Dallas for a shot at one last run playing ball. That was part of it. She also got shared custody of her niece and nephew, something she shares with her mother, who moved to Boynton where their family has some land.
It’s far from where she found herself after graduating from Jenks High School in 2005, having been a member of one state championship team there, then navigating a college career through Northeastern A&M and Arkansas Pine-Bluff to Aabyhoj, Denmark, where she played one season in 2011.
“It was a great experience, I loved the culture, we had a good season. I was an MVP in the cup championship game, I had a job on the side coaching a club team of 13 and 14 year olds, they offered me classes to learn the language, but I kind of took the game and my athleticism for granted and didn’t work as hard as I should have,” she said.
“I wanted more money, more competition. I was more focused on where some of my teammates were playing.”
She wound up finding an opportunity but was cut after only a couple of weeks from the Dudelange team in Luxembourg in 2012.
“That humbled me but with my mom going through some health issues, that too was distracting and I just broke,” she said.
Basketball became a distant thing. She moved back to the United States, used her degree to become a psychology case worker, then when she had her daughter, moved closer to home.
Then this opportunity presented itself.
“I’m 32, I’m not 22 or 23 like I was back then but I saw this as a second chance,” she said.
So far she’s made the most of it. She lost the opportunity to play with a fellow former pro in Angel Goodrich when the Sequoyah alum decided not to play, and the adjustments at the guard positions have taken some time to settle, considering the team only had a couple of genuine weeks of court time prior to their season opening loss in Topeka two weeks ago.
“Working together more and building chemistry has made a big difference,” she said. “It’s unfortunate things didn’t work out for Angel. I knew with her and her sister (Nikki Lewis, who injured a knee), we would do even bigger things.
“But the reason I’m sticking around has to do with my daughter and niece and nephew, the community, and especially kids. I want them to see the big picture of what this can mean for them. It’s something to get excited about, that can be built on and attract even more players.”
Now if her knee cooperates.
“I’m feeling much better today, much more optimistic,” she said. “Like I said I’ve never really had any major injuries or anything my whole career. But I know I’m not 22 anymore.”
And she’s learned not to take anything for granted.
• The schedule process has been anything short of predictable. The Women’s Minor League Basketball Association’s May release of the schedule had Georgia coming here Saturday. But Georgia withdrew, and what was a seven-team league is now four with the Warriors, Topeka Shock, San Antonio and Dallas Lightning, the defending league champions.
The Kansas City club organized this year and was not able to join the WMLBA. They’ll actually play two games Saturday, taking on the Killeen Force at 6 p.m. prior to playing the Warriors. The Warriors and Force will square off in a noon game on Sunday. The Force was an early fill-in for a Houston team that also ceased operation.
• Despite the league shakeup, it appears that the Warriors may well be in line for the biggest draw attendance wise. Civic Center manager John Cruz, who is managing operations for the Warriors, said about 100 tickets had been pre-sold on a tough holiday weekend. The attendance at San Antonio, where games were played at Our Lady of the Lake University, was around a very paltry 40.
“This will definitely be the best facility of any we’ve played in, and I think the other teams will feel that difference,” Cruz said.
• Tickets are $8 in advance through the Civic Center (online at Muskogeeciviccenter.com or ticketstorm.com/muskogeeciviccenter and $10 at the door. Tickets will allow you a three-for-one deal including not only the two games Saturday but also Sunday’s single game.
• Additional home games are Saturday, July 13 against the Dallas Lightning and Sunday, July 14 against the Topeka Storm