ST KILDA has signed American giant Jason Holmes on a two-year international rookie contract.
In announcing the signing at the AFL Draft Combine at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, Saints head of football Chris Pelchen said the 203-centimetre former college basketballer from Chicago had excited the club with his athletic prowess, coordination and competitiveness.
“For those who were here yesterday to see the vertical leap that Jason has, I think we were all impressed by that,” Pelchen said.
“That doesn’t mean he’s an AFL player (yet) … He’s got to learn some very basic skills and obviously understanding of the game… (but) I think he’ll adapt to the game very, very quickly.”
Holmes, 23, was identified as a potential AFL project player at the US combine in Los Angeles in April.
He and fellow Americans Patrick Mitchell and Mark Cisco spent three weeks with the Sydney Swans Academy, then coached by Paul Roos. Only Mitchell was offered an international rookie contract by the club.
Holmes recorded a vertical leap of 97 centimetres – just four centimetres short of Nic Naitanui’s record.
Holmes told reporters he first came across Australian Football on cable television about six years ago.
When he heard about the US combine, he believed it was a game he was capable of playing after studying it on YouTube.
He says he picked up the skills more naturally than many other hopefuls at the combine.
“I’ve just been trying to absorb as much as I can,” he said. “It was polarising to me, watching just how important it is in this country and how many fans come watch it. It’s a huge sport and it looked really exciting.”
Asked whether he found it difficult to give up basketball, Holmes said: “At times … but my passion is to compete. I had time to think about (it) … and I wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t serious to me.”
Holmes said he was looking forward to the physicality of the game, saying his basketball career had him well equipped.
“As a ruckman it’s very similar as far as dominating other men against you, and I have no problem with getting physical and imposing my will,” he said.
Kicking was never a problem, says the left-footer, who reveals he played soccer as a youngster and also punted for a gridiron team. He also played baseball.
“So I have read the ball in the air before. It’s a different ball, different shape but it helped, it translates,” he said. “And handballing … just felt real natural to me …
“I have a lot to learn, and I’m here for that reason, but I feel I can be more of an asset to the club in my later development when I can do a little bit more … full-forward maybe. I like kicking.”
Holmes’ older brother Andre plays with NFL franchise Oakland Raiders.
“He’s excited,” Holmes said. “He wishes I shared the same interest in football, so I’m pretty excited to say I play too.”