Ed Holland III (above) picked Penn over Rhode Island, Columbia, and Yale. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
When Ed Holland III was in his first years at Friends Central’s Lower School, future Duke star Amile Jefferson was just a couple miles away at the FCS Upper School, leading the Phoenix to multiple Friends’ Schools League championships. Jefferson was only the latest Division I player to don a Friends’ Central uniform, but Holland was too young to pick up on the pattern, too young to be truly inspired by Jefferson’s accomplishments or think about following in his footsteps.
It wasn’t until middle school, when eventual Virginia star and No. 4 pick in the 2019 draft De’Andre Hunter was starring for the Phoenix, that Holland really began to understand the legacy at the small Quaker school on City Ave.
Now, entering his senior year, Holland is fully part of that rich hoops history.
Unlike Jefferson and Hunter, though, Holland will be staying local for college. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound wing guard made his pick official Thursday afternoon, committing to play for Steve Donahue’s Penn Quakers via an announcement video on Twitter and Instagram.
“I think it’s super-great,” Holland said by phone Wednesday night. “It’s really comfortable, I really feel at home. Ever since they recruited me, they really treated me like family, they’ve been open, they made sure me and my family were as comfortable as possible and know as much about the school as possible.”
With his commitment, Holland becomes the third member of Penn’s incoming 2021 class, along with 6-3 guard Reese McMullen (Memphis, Tenn./Christian Brothers) and 6-4 guard George Smith (Salem, N.H./Brooks School).
Holland’s final four schools came down to two other Ivy League programs in Yale and Columbia, as well as Rhode Island of the Atlantic 10. Rhode Island and Penn both extended offers last summer –– the Ivies do not offer scholarships, but roster spots –– while Columbia and Yale followed this spring, following junior year in which he averaged 17.7 ppg.
“I had to just compare how in touch I was with the program and the offensive schemes and how in touch I was with the coaching staff, and Penn was just always calling me, allowing me to ask questions,” he said. “I got the most answers from them, and staying home of course was great just because your family’s here and the connections and the city, playing in the Big 5.”
Holland’s not the only Penn connection on the current Friends’ Central roster: second-year (and second-time) FCS coach Jason Polykoff was a Quakers’ assistant for two seasons (2012-14) before taking the head coaching gig at D-III Earlham College, where he spent five seasons. Prior to taking the Penn gig, Polykoff had been the head coach for Friends’ Central for the first time, where Jefferson was his biggest recruit.
“I think it was the perfect call,” Polykoff said. “I think he has an opportunity to contribute relatively early in his career there, which I think is great. I think it checks off a lot of boxes that fit him, who he is, and what his aspirations are.
“I tried to stay relatively objective, I’ve always been relatively objective, the closest I’ve been to dropping my input was when Amile was trying to figure out where he wanted to go,” Polykoff added with a laugh. “Obviously on the inside, I was hoping he’d stay close to home and go to Penn, but I didn’t share that with him.”
For the last three offseasons, Holland’s spent his summers playing for Under Armour-backed Philly Pride, alongside fellow Division I commits Stevie Mitchell (Wilson West Lawn, Pa./Marquette), Zach Hicks (Camden Catholic, N.J./Temple), and others. Holland specifically mentioned coaches Ricky Hicks and Brandon Williams when discussing his development; Hicks coached him in his 15U summer and Williams each of the last two offseasons.
“I give a lot of credit to them,” Holland said. “Definitely a big part of my recruitment, they were the first coaches to help me get into that recruiting stage, and Brandon helped develop my game until the point it was ready for the college-level environment, I think they were extremely important.”
Holland’s role in college, especially early in his college career, is going to be more similar to his role with Philly Pride, where he was able to play off the ball as a spot-up shooter and wing scorer. With Friends’ Central, where he’s the tallest member of the roster, Holland splits his time on the ball, off the ball, and in the post.
“On Friends’ Central, I’m one of the tallest players so I had to fluctuate between a big and guard,” he said, “but with Pride I’m definitely more of the key ‘2’ or ‘3’, so I think that’ll mirror a lot of what I’ll be freshman year at Penn.”
Under Donahue, the Quakers have broken out of what had been a 10-year doldrums under Glenn Miller and then Jerome Allen, who combined for two winning seasons over the course of a decade.
Penn’s gone 59-32 (.648) in the last three seasons, making the NCAA Tournament in 2018. The Quakers are coming off a somewhat-disappointing 16-11 (8-6 Ivy) season which still saw them make the Ivy League tournament before it was cancelled due to the pandemic.
When he gets to Penn next fall, Holland will be joining a Penn backcourt that features some young, exciting pieces: Jordan Dingle (13.5 ppg), Max Martz (7.9 ppg) and Lucas Monroe (3.4 ppg) all played a lot as freshmen, and fellow frosh Jonah Charles had looked terrific in practice before a broken bone in his foot sidelined him for 2019-20.
The Quakers’ staff brought in another couple wings this fall: 6-5 Toronto native Matteus Case, a true freshman, and 6-7 Israeli sophomore Michael Moshkovitz, a junior college transfer.
“I’m excited, they’re all super-talented,” Holland said of his future teammates. “I just love them all, they’re all good people, I’ve talked to them on Zoom calls, they’re just super-good and I just think they can help me. I think next year, it’s going to be a fun year with all of them.”
Though he envisions a long pro career following his years in University City, Holland also has a professional career path mapped out. The plan is to go pre-med, a career in sports medicine strongly under consideration.
“I always remembered watching football and basketball, seeing the players get injured and the team doctors that come on and help them and treating them on the spot, it was always cool to me,” he said. “I envisioned myself doing that.”