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Burrell and Holmes Given a Ringing Endorsement

March 07, 2001|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Love and marriage is breaking out among members of Cal State Northridge's Big Sky Conference-champion basketball team.

OK, that's an exaggeration. Only two players are married, John Burrell and Carl Holmes, but that would be enough to cause concern among coaches who fear players lose focus when love is in the air.

Matador Coach Bobby Braswell has found the opposite.

"It's grown them up," he said. "It's definitely matured them. That's why those guys are leaders on this team.

"Young guys look at them and understand their pressures are unique. They've got the pressure of the sport, but at the same time [they] have pressure of being good husbands and good fathers."

Shooting a last-minute free throw or enduring taunts of fans are the least of Burrell's worries. Besides taking a full load of classes and spending hours at practice, games and study hall, he must find time for his wife, Kamiko, and daughters Jayda and Jazmine, ages 2 and 4.

There are no late-night parties for Burrell. He needs his sleep so he can wake up early to feed and dress his children before Kamiko goes to work. And when he's away on a road trip, he's not relaxing, either.

"It's a different stress," Burrell said. "You know how crazy it is in this world, a woman alone with kids, going in and out of the house, sleeping by herself at night."

Holmes got married seven months ago. He sees his wife, Tanya, about five hours a day at night after she comes home from work and he finishes classes and practice.

"These guys don't know what pressure is," Holmes said of his unmarried teammates. "I knew I was going to have it, especially me trying to finish school and the team now in the NCAA [tournament] hunt.

"There's a lot of pressure every day. Out on the court, you don't know if your wife made it home safely from work. You're constantly thinking, 'Is she safe? Is she safe?' "

Burrell and Kamiko were sweethearts at Highland High in Palmdale. They've been married 2 1/2 years.

Burrell's commitment to basketball has made his home life difficult at times, but the family has endured.

"It gets pretty crazy," Kamiko said. "Being away from each other is the big challenge. It's kind of hard, especially when he went to Hawaii for a week. That was the roughest time because it was so close to Christmas.

"We've pretty much grown up with each other. We've had our ups and downs. We love each other. I think the closeness we have keeps us going and all the broken relationships we see around us. We don't want that with our family."

Holmes met Tanya through a family friend almost two years ago. On their first date, he told her, "I'm going to marry you."

"I thought it was overconfidence," Tanya said. "But he stayed true to his word."

They each keep a journal so they can write down thoughts about their experiences during the day and discuss them at night.

It seems their No. 1 priority is laughing at each other's jokes.

"We're always laughing," Tanya said. "I think we're a fun couple and we have our own jokes. If it's a tense moment, I think that's what keeps us strong. We have a sense of humor and communicate a lot."

When Northridge defeated Eastern Washington on Thursday to win the Big Sky Conference regular-season championship, Tanya listened to the game on the Internet.

"It's exciting being the wife to a college basketball player," she said. "I feel like I'm going through it with him."

Burrell, 23, gets teased by coaches who call him "old man" and "daddy."

If Holmes, 23, struggles in practice, his former legal guardian, Braswell, almost certainly will tell him, "Your wife must be on your back."

The pressure is building this week for Northridge (20-9), which hosts the Big Sky tournament beginning Thursday. The winner earns a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Burrell, a 6-foot-3 senior, is the team's second-leading scorer with a 14.8 average. Holmes, a 6-2 senior, scored a season-high 15 points on Saturday against Portland State and is averaging 7.1 points.

It's no surprise that both are looked upon as calm, confident players in crunch time. They have learned the value of teamwork and understand the importance of building trusting relationships, with help from their wives.

"I knew she was the one who I wanted to be with the rest of my life," Burrell said.

Added Holmes: "I wouldn't change a thing. I begged my wife to marry me. She was like, 'I don't know. I love you, but it's during the season. You're going to be gone all the time.' "

Holmes owes his wife a dance.

"He said he used to be able to dance when he was younger but lost it," Tanya said.

If Northridge qualifies for its first NCAA tournament berth, don't be surprised if Holmes starts dancing on national television.


Eric Sondheimer's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or



at Cal State Northridge


Thursday, 6:05 p.m.

No. 3 Idaho State (14-13, 10-6)

vs. No. 6 Weber State (14-13, 8-8)

Thursday, 8:35 p.m.

No. 4 Northern Arizona (14-13, 8-8)

vs. No. 5 Montana State (16-13, 8-8)


Friday, 6:05 p.m.

No. 2 Eastern Washington (16-10, 11-5)

vs. highest-seeded winner

Friday, 8:35 p.m.

No. 1 CS Northridge (20-9, 13-3)

vs. lowest-seeded winner


Saturday, 6:05 p.m.

Semifinal winners



* Tournament passes are $75 (Northridge students $55). Session tickets for each day are $35 for Thursday and Friday, and $25 for Saturday. Information: (818) 677-2488.

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