Ray Holmes points up before each Estancia High boys' basketball game. He is saluting his father, Keith.
Keith never saw his son play on the varsity level.
Holmes said his dad suffered a heart attack and passed away three months before the start of his junior season. Last season was going to be Holmes' first on varsity as a starter.
The death was hard for Holmes to deal with. He had just turned 16 years old when he lost his father at 46 in August 2009.
"I was going to play for him," Holmes said. "I would love to see him here to watch me play varsity ball. He would've loved it because he loved sports. He used to coach me all the time when I was little. He's the main reason why I got into sports."
Playing basketball has allowed Holmes to keep his mind off things and to remember his father.
The sport has also given Holmes, an only child, siblings and a role model. Holmes refers to his teammates as brothers and Coach Agustin Heredia as a father figure.
Heredia gave Holmes a shot on varsity after he earned it in the summer leading up to last season.
"I love my coach," Holmes said. "Thanks to my coach for everything. He's like my father figure in my life since I don't have a father.
"He's just always been there for me. If I were going to do something bad, I would always have to deal with him. He was pretty much a father. You don't want to disappoint him."
Holmes has made Heredia proud.
The senior is a big reason why Estancia this season is in contention to win the Orange Coast League title, which would be the program's first crown in six seasons. Holmes has come a long ways since the first time Heredia saw him play as an eighth-grader at TeWinkle Middle School.
Back then, Holmes said he was chubby. The weight stood out more to Heredia than his play on the court.
"I would watch him play at lunchtime, and as a coach, you kind of figure out who are going to be your guys in the future," said Heredia, a physical education teacher at TeWinkle. "I will be honest with you, I liked Ray. He's a nice kid. He was the type of kid who [I said], 'Oh, yeah, he will be on the team, but he really won't make a contribution.'
"He was small and kind of had an awful looking shot."
Holmes' shooting form has not changed much, just that he can now knock down jumpers from practically anywhere on the floor.
It might take Holmes some time to get a shot off. That is because the left-hander dips before he releases the ball. Holmes said the dipping motion gives him a better arc on the ball.
The unorthodox shot works for the 5-foot-11 guard. He is averaging 11.3 points per game, the second best total at Estancia, and he leads the team with 31 three-pointers made.
No matter how awkward the delivery looks, Heredia said he has learned not to change a player's shot too much. The Eagles have three games left in league play, so there is no point in tweaking Holmes' shot now.
After helping Estancia to two victories last week and extending the team's winning streak to five, Holmes has to get the Eagles back on track after they dropped out of first place in league. Estancia lost at Laguna Beach, 47-31, on Wednesday, putting the Eagles one game behind the defending league champion Breakers.
For a share of the league title, Estancia (14-10, 5-2 in league) must win out and hope Laguna Beach (13-9, 6-1) drops a game. The Eagles return to the court tonight, when they play host to Calvary Chapel at 7.
Holmes will be ready and he will have his mother, Shirley, in the gym. She goes to practically every game, on the road or at home, she's always rooting for her son.
Holmes knows his father will be watching from above.
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Born: Aug. 3, 1993
Weight: 160 pounds
Sport: Boys' basketball
Coach: Agustin Heredia
Favorite food: Chicken Katsu
Favorite movie: "The Hangover"
Favorite athletic moment: "[Hitting] the buzzer-beater [from far out] against [Costa] Mesa last year in the third quarter."
Week in review: Holmes averaged 13 points and helped the Eagles pick up two Orange Coast League wins and extend their winning streak to five games.