ASHLAND -- Tristen Holmes is a leader on the SOU men's basketball team as its point guard and soft-spoken face. He's not the type of player that's going to pour in 40 points a game, but he knows his role on this team is different than when he was at North Medford High School; he doesn't need to score a ton for the Raiders to be successful.
"I just want to be the leader that can push us and get us to the point of winning a conference championship," Holmes said, "I know that we have a team of scorers, so even if I'm not scoring every game, I'm able to affect games in other ways."
Holmes' most impressive stat is his GPA. He was North Medford's valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA in the 2015 graduating class. Now a junior in college, Holmes has his academic sights set higher. He plans to pursue dental school after finishing his undergraduate degree.
"My mom is a dental assistant, so I've spent a lot of time in the office over my years and I grew close with doctors at my mom's office," Holmes said, "Most people don't even like the dentist, but I just like going in and doing that stuff. So being around it just drew me in."
Finding and paying for medical school so Holmes can live out that dream is a challenge. Through his academic achievement, though, that process has been made a little easier on him. He was accepted into SOU's McNair Program, which is "specifically designed to ensure that Scholars complete their undergraduate degrees, enroll in a graduate program, and have the knowledge, skills, and background preparation that are required to successfully complete a research intensive doctoral program, specifically a doctoral program leading to a Ph.D. or an Ed.D.", according to the program website.
"I don't know if there's been another athlete in the program, so it's just neat," head coach Brian McDermott said.
"They help me through the interview process and get to schools so I can interview," Holmes said, "They help me find the right scholarships since graduate schools is so expensive and they pretty much just hold my hand and figure it all out."
Being accepted into the McNair program is a tough process, with only a handful of SOU students being selected for the program each year. Even though he found out about the program just one week before the application deadline, Holmes did enough in his essay, application, and interview to earn a spot in the coveted program.
"I don't know that I've ever seen an 18-year-old that knew exactly what he wanted to be," McDermott said, "Kids don't grow up saying 'I want to be a dentist.' It tells you how his life is. He knows what he wants, so he plans for it."
Also in Holmes' plans are success for the Raiders as they enter conference play. He may not be a certified dentist yet, so he can't put crowns on people's teeth, but he can help SOU to a conference crown this winter.