TRAVERSE CITY — When Holden Greiner was in high school at St. Francis, he was painfully close to breaking 1,000 career points, but came up short.
Like 5-10 points short.
College was a different story. Greiner recently capped a memorable four-year career at Lehigh, which included surpassing the 1,000-point milestone in the second to last game of the year.
”It was a pretty cool moment, because it was against our rivals and it was the first basket of the second half,” Greiner said. “Going into the season, my teammates joked around about how it’d be really close if I made it or not. They knew I barely missed in high school, so they’d make the joke that I was going to miss it by one or two points. I tried not to think about it and focus on getting wins and staying alive as long as possible, but it was definitely fun when I got it.”
Greiner’s primary focus was on getting wins for the Mountain Hawks. As for the milestone? An added bonus as he became the 31st player in school history to achieve the feat.
”I don’t think anyone can not have it in your mind when you’re close,” Greiner said. “No matter how much of a team player you are. Nobody’s going to say they want 1,000 points more than their team winning. But, it’s tough to completely keep it out of your mind. When I got close and I’d score, some of my teammates would put their hands up for how many I was away.”
In high school, Greiner chose Lehigh over Central Michigan and American University. He made the most of his four years, including winning two Patriot League titles, two NCAA tournament berths, games against some of the best teams in the country, and a spot on last year’s Sports Illustrated March Madness cover — albeit a small one.
“It’s an experience,” Greiner said. “My dream growing up was to play college basketball in Division 1, have a chance to win the tournament, win a championship, start there and have a good career. I got all of those things out of Lehigh. I couldn’t be happier. It’s just cool to grow up watching these big-name schools like Duke, and as a little kid thinking these guys were on another level. To step on the court with them, after 2-3 minutes you realize you can play with them. It was validating.”
Among the highlights was last year’s NCAA tournament, where the Mountain Hawks stunned second-seed and defending champion Duke with a 75-70 win.
“To be able to beat a team like that, for me personally, growing up I was a huge Duke fan,” Greiner said. “So that was a dream come true in itself. But it was a great four years. All the thanks to coach (Brett) Reed for bringing me out here. I have nothing but great memories.”
This year, Lehigh returned a lot from that tournament team, but suffered a setback when star point guard C.J. McCollum broke his left foot.
“C.J. was a big part of this program for four years,” Greiner said. “It’s special playing with a player like that, because no matter how good you are or how good you think you could be, you find your role with a guy like that. No matter who you were or where we were playing, there was nobody on the court that could shut him down.”
That meant more responsibility fell on Greiner.
”When he went down, coach Reed told me my role was going to change,” Greiner said. “If people watched our team after C.J. went down, our identity did change. We became a lot more defensive focused, and the rest of us became aggressive attacking off the dribble. That came with me especially, as I was able to handle the ball more and take more shots.”
Lehigh finished 21-10 this year, reached the Patriot League semifinals and lost a heart-breaker in the first round of the CBI to Wyoming when Nathan Sobey hit a 3-pointer with a second left for a 67-66 win.
Ironically, Greiner’s career at St. Francis ended in the opening round of the Class C districts when Kalkaska’s Travis Schuba nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull off the upset.
Greiner’s playing days are hardly over, though. After taking a couple of weeks off to recharge and focus on school — he’ll graduate this summer with a degree in marketing — he’ll shift his attention to professional basketball.
”I’ve been talking to agents a lot,” Greiner said. “Me and my older brother, Austin Greiner, he’s been helping me out a lot. I’m looking to play overseas next year. That’s kind of the goal now, to get a professional contract.”
The 6-foot-8 Greiner plans to work on his strength over the summer, and keep developing his skills.
”What excites European teams about me is my skill set of being tall, being able to shoot well and rebound,” Greiner said. “American players like me are well sought after. So it’s almost refining the things that got me here and made me successful in high school and college.”