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November 17, 2013
Freshman Facts: Chris Holden, from hoop dreams to Dem's team


If it seems unlikely that the son of a prominent politician once renounced the idea of public office, consider the allure of a pro basketball career.

Back in his college days, Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, was playing center for San Diego State University, where he played alongside future Padres great and baseball hall of famer Tony Gwynn and once took on then-Georgetown star Patrick Ewing (asked how that went, Holden replied: "let's talk about something else").

"I couldn't see myself in that," Holden said of the possibility of following his father, former state senator and Los Angeles City Council member Nate Holden, into politics.

But after graduation, with the National Basketball Association appearing out of reach, Holden drifted into a job working the night shift at a juvie hall. Rattled by seeing young men "who were misguided and had fallen off the path," Holden decided to seek a Pasadena City Council seat left vacant by the apparent departure of long-tenured councilwoman Loretta Thompson-Glickman.

Then came a moment that, in retrospect, represented a key juncture in Holden's life: an old college friend called a 23-year-old Holden and offered him a spot on a New Zealand basketball team.

Holden turned down the offer, citing his commitment to the city council race. While he lost that one when Thompson-Glickman re-entered the field, he subsequently won a spot on the Pasadena City Council, where he served for more than 20 years before winning his Assembly seat.

"Even though I've never been to New Zealand," Holden said, "I've never regretted it."

The 2013-2014 Legislature features the largest freshman class in decades. In this recurring series, Insider Edition helps get you acquainted with the influx of newcomers.

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