He’s played basketball his entire life. But it wasn’t until two years ago he realized his gift.
Now’s he the best player in Northern Nevada.
“My freshman year, when I made varsity, when I got pulled, up I was like ‘I need to start working at this because I know eventually in a couple years I’m going to have to take over this team,’” Spanish Springs junior Marcus Loadholt said.
As a sophomore, Loadholt scored 12.9 points per game to help lead the Cougars to the program’s first league title. He was named a first-team all-region selection. In October, he was named the No. 1 overall prospect at the Talent Out West Showcase that featured more than 90 of the top players from the region.
Now a junior, there is no debate. This is his team.
“I like that a lot, knowing that I’m the motor of the team,” Loadholt said. “I have to come out and show my guys. I have to set an example.”
With hopes of defending last year’s league title fading last Tuesday night at home against McQueen, Loadholt did what the best player on the floor is supposed to do.
He took over. He decided the outcome. He showed his guys.
As he does seemingly every night, at least for a few minutes, he appeared to be shooting at a rim the size of a small pool.
He scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in three second-half minutes to spearhead a 70-56 home comeback win over the Lancers.
“Our guys, they’re good, they know when it’s going to him,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “Our guys (on the bench) are already standing up and they’re like ‘got him, got him,’ before he’s even got the ball in his hands.”
The win pushed the Cougs into second place in the High Desert League, two games back of first-place Reno with just three weeks remaining in the regular season.
The Lancers keyed on Loadholt all night, just like every other team in Northern Nevada has done all season, because he is no longer a secret after breaking out last season.
“He’s all-world, all-everything,” Reno coach Matt Ochs said.
Despite the relentless defensive attention, Loadholt is still averaging 20 points per game this winter while shooting 44 percent from the floor going into Friday’s 85-46 win at North Valleys.
Loadholt admitted the constant pressure can be irksome, but it’s something he, and his team, has grown accustomed to.
“It’s frustrating at times but I know the offense (coach) Penney puts us in, the guys are going to set me screens, get me open,” Loadholt said. “Sometimes I do throw up some bad shots, but I need to know I have Josh (Prizina) on the team, Bryce (DeLong) too. I need to get them involved because they can definitely score the ball too.”
Prizina (11.1 ppg) and DeLong (7.1 ppg) are the team’s second and third leading scorers behind Loadholt.
While Loadholt and company would prefer to add a second league title to the banner hanging in the school’s gym, loftier goals remain—like winning the program’s first regional title.
Two years ago, Spanish Springs fell at home to Reno in the program’s first regional title game appearance, 45-42. Loadholt, who was called up to varsity earlier in the season, saw time in the loss but didn’t get on the stat sheet.
Last year, the Cougars’ run came to a close in the semifinals with a loss to eventual champion, Galena.
“It just sucked because it was to Galena and we beat them the year before that (in the semifinals). So I was just like, ‘I feel good about this one,’” Loadholt said. “We just could not handle their pressure. They were in us the whole time. It sucked.”
This year, the Cougars will once again be awarded the chance to celebrate the program’s first regional title on their home floor. Spanish Springs will host the semifinals and regional title game Feb. 17 and 19.
“It’s definitely an advantage for us,” Loadholt said. “I mean, we practice here every day.”
If the Cougars are to win their first regional title next month, it’ll be because of his gift.
It’ll be because he showed his guys.