"I love that girl, everything about her. Jordi is very classy, very professional for as young as she is. My view is she is one of the most athletic girls in the whole state. The tough thing about her is a lot of her offense comes from her defense. She hates losing, gives 100 percent every game. She never gets tired." -Malad coach Jeremy Jones
"From a game plan strategic standpoint, I'm excited she's gone. From a spectator/fan perspective, I wish I could watch her play every year. I feel that very strongly about her." -Ririe coach Damien Smith.
One of West Jefferson High School head girls basketball coach Jalena Dixon’s earliest memories of Jordi Holdaway provided a glimpse into the future as well as humorous irony.
Then West Jefferson’s seventh grade girls basketball coach, Dixon gave Holdaway specific instructions when the Panthers had a considerable lead. Despite Dixon’s repeated efforts, those instructions proved futile.
“I’d tell her, ‘Hands behind your back. Don’t steal the ball.’ Then she’d get a steal, smile at me and say, ‘Sorry. I can’t help it,’” Dixon said. “Even in seventh grade, I knew Jordi was going to be a special athlete just because she’s so competitive. She’s always been a spitfire.”
Like Dixon, Holdaway laughed upon recalling that memory. She credited her competitiveness to being the latest in a long line of Holdaway multisport athletes to represent West Jefferson. She took up basketball in fourth grade and she said she genuinely looked forward to being in the gym by seventh grade.
“I was so excited every morning when we’d get up and go to practice,” Holdaway said. “I loved playing with my team.”
The girl Dixon said has always played bigger than herself became one of the area’s most all-around basketball players as the years went by. While West Jefferson did not claim a district or state trophy this season and went three games without Holdaway due to a knee injury, District 6 coaches lauded the 5-foot-7 point guard for helping the Panthers reach those trophy games with her consistently high scoring and rebounding efforts, regardless of what the scoreboard read. Despite efforts from eastern Idaho to Boise to shut her down, Holdaway concluded her senior season averaging 16.1 points (No. 2 in the area) and 8.1 rebounds (No. 6 in area, No. 1 for a guard) per game. She compiled 68 points, 31 rebounds, 10 assists and 14 steals in three days at the 2A state tournament in February, including 19 points and 15 rebounds versus Melba and 30 points versus Cole Valley.
That seventh grader told not to steal the ball led all Post Register coverage area basketball players, male and female, with 4.5 steals per game as a senior, and she is the 2018-19 Post Register All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year. She joins Tiffany McDonald (2011), Dixon (2004) and Jenny Jemmett (1999) as West Jefferson athletes to receive the honor, and she ends her high school career with 1,088 points, 730 rebounds and 402 steals in four years.
“Honestly, she’s the glue to our team,” Dixon said. “She’ll do anything to help her teammates just to get the job done. She showed me that at state this year. The cool thing is, she’s so humble she wants her teammates to succeed.”
Coaches of teams of various classifications surveyed for all-area provided their own take of similar observations of Holdaway: a calm leader, smooth passer, hard to catch when she breaks into the open court, and frequently assigned with guarding the opposing team’s best player. Longtime North Fremont coach Ben Lenz, whose team played West Jefferson four times this season, said Holdaway has a will and competitive fire that’s hard to replicate.
“She’s got one of the best 10-to-12-foot jump shots you see in girls,” Lenz said. “She’s a one-man press break. I don’t know if there was a team that had any one player that was more valuable to their team. They just fed off of her energy, her competitiveness.”
While West Jefferson was a nonconference opponent for his team, South Fremont coach Ryan Erikson said Holdaway was particularly difficult to prepare for due to being a true threat on both ends of the floor.
“Jordi will take the ball and just go,” Erikson said. “It’s very rare you find a player that you have to plan for offensively and defensively. She would disrupt everything you tried to do.”
Holdaway said several years of work went into becoming the basketball player she is now. The fifth of six children and the youngest girl in her family, Holdaway followed her older siblings into sports. She was inspired to win a state championship upon seeing older sister Presli do so in volleyball and basketball, and her wish came true as a freshman on West Jefferson’s 2016 2A girls basketball state championship team alongside older sister Taylor, then a junior. While she had 11 points in that title game, Holdaway said offense was not her strong point.
“When I was a freshman, I was not good on offense at all,” Holdaway said. “My one job was to get stops on defense, box out.”
Holdaway’s responsibilities changed as older players graduated. Along the way, she went to the gym with her dad and developed the trademark jump shot Lenz referenced--a pull-up jumper released from within 15 feet that almost always went off the glass and into nylon.
Entering this season, Holdaway said she felt nerves due to West Jefferson graduating five players from last year’s 2A state consolation championship team, including Morgan Laird, with whom she traded off as point guard. Dixon’s request to write down long term goals and daily practice goals helped ease Holdaway’s mind, as did the support from her fellow seniors.
“Our seniors, we’re all such good friends,” Holdaway said. “It’s easier to stay composed when all the seniors are supporting me.”
As her senior year nears the end, a burning question is what sport will she play after high school? Holdaway has won numerous medals in track, including six golds at state as a hurdler, sprinter and relay runner, and helped West Jefferson reach the 2A volleyball state tournament her junior and senior seasons. Upon making college visits for both basketball and volleyball, Holdaway decided to focus on volleyball.
The District 6 Senior Showcase was her final high school basketball game, as she will be in New York the weekend of the statewide all-star game she was invited to at North Idaho College, and she will balance track with Bonneville club volleyball tournaments this spring.
She said she will play intramural basketball, adding that it will take time to get accustomed to no longer being a three-sport athlete.
“I feel like I’m not going to know what to do with myself,” Holdaway said with a laugh.
While she joked that she wishes Holdaway didn’t have to graduate, Dixon expressed gratitude for being her coach.
“She’s one of the very best to come from West J,” Dixon said. “She’s fearless at all times. You don’t always get to see players like that come through your program. I hope someday she realizes how good she is.”