HUNTERSVILLE – Keri Holm reached the pinnacle of women’s basketball in 1998, when she was a point guard for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

It’s her college career at George Mason, however, that the Huntersville resident recalls with the fondest memories.

Holm – then known as Keri Chaconas – scored a school-record 1,747 points in her collegiate career, which spanned from 1992 to 1996. The Atlantic 10 Conference formally inducted her to its 2014 class of ‘Basketball Legends’ on March 7.

“That was really cool,” Holm told The Herald Weekly. “We weren’t in the A-10 then, but to be named as one of its best players was definitely an honor.”

 

‘God-given ability’

Holm grew up in northern Virginia, where she began playing basketball at a young age. Her prowess in the sport as a prep player landed her a scholarship at George Mason, her home school, in 1992.

She took advantage of the opportunity.

While Holm didn’t get a chance to play in an NCAA tournament game during her time with the Patriots, she almost single-handedly vaulted George Mason into a contender for the Colonial Athletic Association title.

Holm’s success as a 3-point shooter – her 218 treys have her tops in school history – helped drive George Mason to the CAA championship game in 1994, where the Patriots fell to powerhouse Old Dominion and their star freshman Ticha Penicheiro, 78-61.

It wouldn’t be the last time she’d meet Penicheiro on the court.

It also wasn’t the last time Holm made a big impact with the Patriots.

She scored a school-record 51 points against East Carolina in 1995 and set a single-season scoring mark – 549 points – that stood for 15 years.

Still, her most memorable moments don’t involve games.

“The basketball memories I recall best are just some of the practices, some of the preseason workouts and things like that,” Holm said. “When I look back, it’s mostly the people and the relationships I built that stand out.

“There were some great games, though. The double-overtime game against Old Dominion my sophomore year was hard to beat.”

The secret to Holm’s success, she believes, comes from the fact that being a basketball player was her greatest talent.

“Everyone has that one talent, and I feel like I have a God-given ability in basketball,” she said.

 

‘The place was rockin!’

Holm left George Mason in 1996 with an accounting degree, several women’s basketball records, and a lot of memories.

She made more soon after graduation.

Holm continued her basketball career in Sweden, where she played professionally. The WNBA didn’t debut until 1997, and the league that preceded it, the American Basketball League, folded after just two-plus seasons.

Holm had plenty of reasons to stay in Sweden. She had a solid team and she was broadening her horizons. Her personal life was also a positive. She met George Holm, also a basketball junkie, while in Sweden.

The two were married while Holm continued her professional career. When the Washington Mystics, a WNBA expansion team, came calling in 1998, Holm answered.

She spent a season with the upstart Mystics, where she teamed with two-time Olympic gold medalist Nikki McCray.

Holm also faced off against Penicheiro again. Penicheiro, then with the Sacramento Monarchs, became a WNBA star after her career ended at Old Dominion.

It was Holm, however, who felt like a star when she got into the swing of things in the sport’s top league.

“It was a very short, condensed season (30 games),” she said. “That’s something that was a big adjustment for me, especially with the travel and back-to-back games. It was very cool, very fun, but definitely a different experience.

“This was when the WNBA was really gaining ground. Games (at the MCI Center) were sold out. The place was rockin’! There was a real excitement in the area for the team. It’s amazing the energy you can draw from a group of people, even when you’re on the court.”

 

‘Sharing a passion for the game’

Holm’s one WNBA season was one to remember. She returned to Sweden to play after the Mystics’ 1998 campaign concluded, and continued playing professionally for several years.

Her professional career ended not long before she moved to Huntersville with her husband and children in 2007.

Neither could give up the game, however.

“We were looking for a way to help out players in the area, and we found a way to do it,” she said.

The Holms started the Dream Big Basketball Academy when they moved to Huntersville. They offer camps at J.M. Alexander Middle in Huntersville for players of all ages, as well as more specialized clinics at Mountain Island Fitness in Charlotte.

The camps are an integral part of the Holms’ love for basketball, George Holm said.

“To have the opportunity to help kids in the area really means a lot to us,” he said.

“We’ve done this our whole lives. We get a lot out of being able to teach young players how to get better. It’s a great experience.”

Hannah Early, a former Hopewell High basketball standout who now plays for Davidson College, was one of the Holms’ first clients.

“I loved working with Hannah,” Keri Holm said. “I still keep up with her and follow her career. It’s so great to see that she’s having a lot of success.”

In between giving tips to young athletes and raising a family, Holm said she’s trying to find time to watch the NCAA Tournament this year.

“I try to keep up with it,” she said. “It’s so different now. When I watch it, the thing I think about is how as a player, when you walk onto that court as a senior, you’re always thinking, ‘Is this my last game?’

“It’s hard to step away from this sport. I’m glad I haven’t had to, because I’ve still got a passion for it.”