SALT LAKE CITY — Second-round draft picks always face longer odds for carving out a successful NBA career than their first-round counterparts do. It is usually the little things that matter most when it comes to signing a contract and securing a regular-season roster spot.

That's what Sixers rookie Richaun Holmes is counting on to turn his own pro basketball aspirations into a full-fledged NBA career. Holmes faces plenty of competition in a loaded frontcourt that features the likes of Nerlans Noel, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant and fellow rookie Jahlil Okafor. With that in mind, the former Bowling Green forward is doing whatever it takes to carve out a niche as an energy guy, similar to last year's second-round pick, Arsalan Kazemi (see story).

This means being active on the floor. Diving for loose balls. Grabbing extra rebounds. Playing defense. It may not draw a ton of attention on the stat sheet for Holmes. Still, those are exactly the sort of things that will help him make a lasting positive impression with the Sixers' coaching staff.

“Just play hard,” Holmes said. “Control the things I can control. Effort. Communication. Helping my teammates. Everything I can control, I do it to the best of my ability. I just come in and give maximum effort and maximum communication and do whatever I can to help the team win.”

 

Holmes has shown flashes of what his energetic play could do for the Sixers if he sticks with the team in the regular season. He is averaging 11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in 17.0 minutes per game in the Utah Jazz Summer League, which the Sixers conclude tonight against the Jazz (9 ET/TCN).

His contributions should not come as a surprise to anyone who followed Holmes' career at Bowling Green. During his three seasons with the Falcons, Holmes became the first player in Bowling Green history to record over 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 200 blocks. He graduated as the Falcons' all-time leader in blocked shots (244) and averaged 2.57 blocks per game over the course of three seasons.

It seems then that Holmes fits the profile of what the Sixers are looking to see from rookies in their summer league auditions both in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. He is a tough customer. And that's the sort of characteristic the coaching staff wants a rookie to show on the court.

“You're watching and evaluating toughness,” Sixers coach Billy Lange said. “You're watching and evaluating their character and their integrity and who's a leader and who stays with it.”

Staying with it fits perfectly into Holmes' DNA. He knows the little things are what elevates a second-round draft pick from the pack. Quitting is not in his vocabulary.

Even if his NBA future ultimately is not with the Sixers, Holmes is already showing enough in his style of play and skill set to earn him a look from plenty of other teams around the league. He isn't worried about what the future holds yet. For now, Holmes is simply focused on making the most of playing summer league ball.

There are still moments for him when it feels a little bit surreal that he's finally putting on a uniform and lacing up his sneakers for an NBA team.

“It's definitely a dream come true,” Holmes said. “You grow up thinking about playing basketball at the highest level. Getting an opportunity to play here in summer league is definitely a dream come true. I'm grateful for the opportunity, really.”

Holmes is doing all he can to keep the alarm clock from going off and ending that dream.