By I.A. Stewart

Murphy Holmes is versatile. On the court, the senior can play forward, swing or guard. He can drive the lane, he can shoot the three, grab a board in traffic or run the point. But his versatility extends beyond the hardwood, as Holmes also moonlights as an up-and-coming rap artist.

Holmes, or "Young Murph," as he goes by in his second gig, has just released his second CD, "Bay-Sickly Up and Coming."

As one of only three seniors on the basketball team, Holmes is unquestionably a crowd favorite and the heart of the young Slugs. Every time he touches the ball, those in attendance ooh and ah-not necessarily because he is going to dunk or sink a 3-pointer-but because he is an entertainer. His reckless abandon on the court, the way he pounds his chest, urges the crowd on or the way he holds his arm up after shooting a long three, as if to remind everyone that it was in fact him who just sunk that basket-he calls it his "flare"-clearly separate him from the rest of the generally mild-tempered team. His moves are not always met with total success, though. Holmes leads the team in turnovers, a clear symptom of his at times erratic play.

"We’ve had to tone his game down a little bit. Sometimes he can get a little too flashy. He definitely has a little of that ‘And 1’ to his game," Coach Gordie Johnson said of Holmes, referring to the popular street basketball videos.

But Holmes says that he can’t help but play the way he does. The passion and enthusiasm that he brings to the court, even if they can get him in trouble, are characteristic of the way that he approaches everything, be it hoops, music or school-full speed ahead.

"As much as coach tells me not to have that flare, it’s just my style," Holmes said. "It’s always been in me. I play off emotion, and I take it upon my shoulders to keep the energy up."

It is clear that Holmes feeds off the energy of the crowd. The more he throws himself at the game, the more the crowd reacts. And the more that happens, the harder he goes. His music is the same.

"The music, it’s in my veins," Holmes said. "Whatever I do, I do it to the best of my ability – rapping, basketball, and school, too."

Much of Holmes’ charisma and demeanor come from his upbringing. Holmes’ mother, Marcella, is a Gospel singer who herself has released a number of albums, the most recent of which, "Come on Everybody Praise God," features her son as a guest vocalist.

"I told him, ‘Murphy, you have to be unique. It’s the way the Lord can use you best,’" Marcella said.

Holmes is planning to move to Southern California and pursue his rapping career when the well runs dry on his playing days. He is already set up with Seattle-based producer T-Time, who he has collaborated with many times. Whether his music takes off or not, Holmes is sure to continue to live the way he plays.