Lonnie Holmes came to Drury with lots of charm, lots of promise and an astonishing ability to help basketballs pass through baskets. He left Drury with charisma that lights up a room, a degree in criminology and a record as the top scorer in Drury basketball history. While a career as a pro basketball player mostly has eluded him, Holmes has the drive and intelligence to take Drury's lessons about teamwork and a shared mission to heart, using them as the core of an approach to life that pushes aside disappointment in search of success.
Holmes' toughness developed under pressure, in part as he balanced a Drury course load with the demands (and lure) of basketball. "It was really difficult," he remembers. "You had papers and tests, you traveled." How did he learn to get it all done? Holmes has a simple, decisive answer. "The balance was Coach Stanfield!" After a short laugh, he explains: "He kept us focused. Athletics was fun and important, but we also needed to keep our focus on why we were there: to get a degree." In that context, basketball took on an additional role as stress-reliever. "I enjoy playing basketball," says Holmes, "so if there was stress, maybe brought on by something on the educational side, if I went to practice or we had a game, it would release some stress and I could focus again."
And when Lonnie Holmes turned his focus on basketball, great things happened, even though he wasn't necessarily the best at any particular skill. "Ask who was the best shooter in Drury history and Lonnie's name is seldom mentioned," says Athletic Director Bruce Harger, PhD. "Ask who was the best leaper in Drury history and Lonnie's name is seldom mentioned. Ask who was the best competitor in Drury history and Lonnie's name is always mentioned." In four years Holmes scored 2,341 points, and sank a record 710 free throws. He is third on Drury's list of top rebounders. He was a NAIA All-American twice. Bridging Drury's transition to the NCAA, Holmes was also named to the NCAA Division II All-American Team and was the South Central Region's Most Valuable Player.
A career like that just might have set the stage for a pro basketball career. After graduation Holmes headed to Australia, where he played with the Sydney Slammers for a year and a half. He returned to the U.S. and tried to break into the big time, but was turned away. So he turned to his Drury degree and took the next step, earning a masters degree in criminal justice at Central Missouri State University. Holmes is now a district loss prevention supervisor for Wal-Mart in the Myrtle Beach, S.C. area, consulting with managers of seven stores on how to improve security. "The future looks bright for me," he says, despite the disappointment of having to give up his pro basketball dreams. "You almost think sometimes the path is laid out ahead of you," he suggests. "What I'm doing now - it could be my calling."
Still, every time he flips on a basketball game, he feels a twinge. "I still can play, so I miss it. I watch basketball now and think I should be there." But he's taken the determination that made him a great basketball player and converted it to a new setting. "Basketball helps you deal with adversity. Being in a team environment, it flows over into a team concept in the workplace." Insights on that level show the depth of this exceptionally intelligent and strong scholar and athlete.