Why Eli Holman is my favorite Hoosier

  • 10/09/2007 8:50 pm in

eliholman.jpgI’ll be honest: I’ve never met Eli Holman. Never seen him a play a single second of basketball. Never watched him fly from one end of the court to another, 6’10” but shockingly athletic; never seen him dunk, though I hear it’s pretty breathtaking.

It has nothing to do with basketball, but it’s true all the same: Eli Holman is my favorite player because Eli Holman is the American Dream.

An explanation, if I may: Holman comes from a city, a neighborhood, and a school that, mind my language, none of us can even fucking imagine. Richmond, Cali. is a city with recent “murder, vehicle theft and larceny rates so serious that the city council at one point requested a declaration of a state of emergency and asked for the intervention of the Contra Costa County Sheriff and the California Highway Patrol in order to ameliorate crime waves,” according to Wikipedia. Richmond is bad, man. Really bad.

And so Holman was a teenager in a place where the mistakes teenagers make usually mean jail time, and lots of it. The biggest mistake he’s made thus far — that we know about — is getting mad at a ref and pushing him. Were I from Richmond, I would be incredibly proud of this track record. (In Bloomington, you can push intramural refs all you want. They usually don’t complain.)

For all his troubles, Holman still somehow comes across as self-effacing. Need examples? OK. How about this story from February:

Holman was suspended by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) from playing back in December 2005 after pushing a referee. Although Holman says it’s a moment he regrets, his guardian says it’s made him a better player on the court — but more importantly a better man off the court.

Michelle Banks, Elijah’s guardian: “He became a lot more aware of his actions. He thinks, you know, much more than he acts now.”

Holman says it’s all about dealing with adversity. The 6’10” center, who signed a national letter of intent to attend Indiana in the fall, was grazed by a bullet last month. It came within inches of his spine.

Elijah Holman: “Actually, it was a wakeup call from God, you know, saying I need to get my life back on track. I just got a 3.2 on down in the classroom.”

Roy Rogers, Richmond high basketball coach: “It’s a bad situation he got himself in. But he handled the situation well and I think he learned a great, great lesson, so he shouldn’t do anything now but, you know, go up the ladder even higher.”

Now, Holman is doing everything right. He’s doubled his SAT scores, is now making A’s and B’s, and had this message for the youngsters:

Elijah Holman: “Take it from a guy who’s been there. You know what I’m saying? Live the streets, smoke the weed, sold the weed, got shot. Take it from somebody that’s been there, that’s 6’10”, that’s an easy target. Take it from me. Believe me. Stay off the streets. Go to school, stay in class man.

Not only is that quote hilarious, it’s also trenchant, and now a kid (nay, man) who got grazed in the spine with a bullet, whose school system is so inept that its administrators failed to file the necessary papers for Holman to play basketball on time — imagine if your guidance counselor did this to your first-year college enrollment — and who had to stay locked in his house for days and weeks on end because he feared for his safety. This man now lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he essentially plays basketball for a living. In a collegiate atmosphere filled with greed and abuse, and in a world carved up by injustice, is that not the American Dream?

I don’t know Eli Holman, but I know what he’s been through. And I know his unlimited potential. And I know I’m glad he’s an Indiana Hoosier, for reasons that have nothing to do with slam dunks and blocked shots.

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  • Zach

    Great article E. We kind of forget that these players are human beings and actually have lives off the court as well. Eli’s definitely had his share of struggles and triumphs before ending up in Bloomington, and I’m more than glad he’s a Hoosier.

    Here’s hoping to see him dunk and swat a few on Friday night.

  • Zach

    Great article E. We kind of forget that these players are human beings and actually have lives off the court as well. Eli’s definitely had his share of struggles and triumphs before ending up in Bloomington, and I’m more than glad he’s a Hoosier.

    Here’s hoping to see him dunk and swat a few on Friday night.

  • I wish he could have talked to Bud Mackey. He is the classic example of overcoming your environment to do great things.
    Also, I think Holman will be a surprise star at IU. Like you, I have never seen anything other than pics and a few scant video clips. But, the man is quick for his size and could be a real asset this year.
    I think he will really come into his own next year, jumping to the NBA. But, really, who can blame the kid.

  • I wish he could have talked to Bud Mackey. He is the classic example of overcoming your environment to do great things.
    Also, I think Holman will be a surprise star at IU. Like you, I have never seen anything other than pics and a few scant video clips. But, the man is quick for his size and could be a real asset this year.
    I think he will really come into his own next year, jumping to the NBA. But, really, who can blame the kid.

  • I really like what MajorBeef said about Eli talking to Mackey. It’s like the difference between night and day. It’s very sad. But good for Eli.

  • I really like what MajorBeef said about Eli talking to Mackey. It’s like the difference between night and day. It’s very sad. But good for Eli.

  • phillip

    Eli has been my favorite Hoosier for a while now. Centers are always my favorite players…Hearing about him straighten his life just makes me like him more.

  • phillip

    Eli has been my favorite Hoosier for a while now. Centers are always my favorite players…Hearing about him straighten his life just makes me like him more.

  • Dallas

    Nice article. Would have been better if you would have left out the swear word. If you can’t use the proper language to make your point you need to brush up on your writing skills.

  • Dallas

    Nice article. Would have been better if you would have left out the swear word. If you can’t use the proper language to make your point you need to brush up on your writing skills.

  • Dallas

    Nice article. Would have been better if you would have left out the swear word. If you can’t use the proper language to make your point you need to brush up on your writing skills.

  • jaime

    Actually I’m fine with the curse word. Though the word can be considered rude in many contexts, it properly elevates are awareness of how dangerous Richmond is. Very nice read.

  • jaime

    Actually I’m fine with the curse word. Though the word can be considered rude in many contexts, it properly elevates are awareness of how dangerous Richmond is. Very nice read.

  • J.O.

    I vouch for the craziness in Richmond. I lived in the S.F. Bay area for a couple years. A friend of mine (not from Richmond) happened to be driving through there at dusk one evening, heard a few pops in the distance, and got a stray bullet through his backseat windows….this was in the mid ’90’s.

    I hope Eli continues to do well and (like the writer) feel a sense of pride on his behalf.

  • J.O.

    I vouch for the craziness in Richmond. I lived in the S.F. Bay area for a couple years. A friend of mine (not from Richmond) happened to be driving through there at dusk one evening, heard a few pops in the distance, and got a stray bullet through his backseat windows….this was in the mid ’90’s.

    I hope Eli continues to do well and (like the writer) feel a sense of pride on his behalf.

  • kelin

    Great blog….great great great…I think often times we get a little spoiled to the kids that do ALL the right things and make ALL the right choices. There are good kids out there who make bad decisions BUT then do the right things to make up for those bad decisions. Bud could take a lesson from Eli…it would not surprise me if Eli contacted Bud somehow on his own….

  • kelin

    Great blog….great great great…I think often times we get a little spoiled to the kids that do ALL the right things and make ALL the right choices. There are good kids out there who make bad decisions BUT then do the right things to make up for those bad decisions. Bud could take a lesson from Eli…it would not surprise me if Eli contacted Bud somehow on his own….

  • E,

    Good stuff as always. Holman has definitely been through a lot and I think we’re all rooting for him to succeed. He has to be thrilled to be in Bloomington after living in Richmond.

  • E,

    Good stuff as always. Holman has definitely been through a lot and I think we’re all rooting for him to succeed. He has to be thrilled to be in Bloomington after living in Richmond.

  • Jack Schneider

    Your wonderful insight into the problems Eli has faced and overcome and his obvious high character should give all IU fans extra reaons for taking him into their hearts. I strongly suspect Eli will be an important cog in this season’s IU hoops machine. I believe he’ll combine with DJ and Big Dre to give the Hoosiers the strongest low-post presence they’ve had in many years, maybe since the Tolbert-Turner combo. Add the stalwart backcourt talent headed by Eric Gordon, the best IU guard since Isiah Thomas, and the all-round skills of Jamarcus Ellis, and this Hoosier team promises to be very special indeed.

  • Jack Schneider

    Your wonderful insight into the problems Eli has faced and overcome and his obvious high character should give all IU fans extra reaons for taking him into their hearts. I strongly suspect Eli will be an important cog in this season’s IU hoops machine. I believe he’ll combine with DJ and Big Dre to give the Hoosiers the strongest low-post presence they’ve had in many years, maybe since the Tolbert-Turner combo. Add the stalwart backcourt talent headed by Eric Gordon, the best IU guard since Isiah Thomas, and the all-round skills of Jamarcus Ellis, and this Hoosier team promises to be very special indeed.

  • j

    too bad he’s not qualified, and likely won’t be. IU doing him a huge favor by sticking him with a big tuition bill.

  • j

    too bad he’s not qualified, and likely won’t be. IU doing him a huge favor by sticking him with a big tuition bill.

  • Jimmy

    Who said he won’t qualify? The NCAA has plenty of time to review Eli’s information. He’s already been cleared to practice.

  • Jimmy

    Who said he won’t qualify? The NCAA has plenty of time to review Eli’s information. He’s already been cleared to practice.

  • Jason

    Eli is a great guy. I live in the Bay Area and work with teenagers as a Youth Pastor. One of my kids played with Eli last year, so I saw him several times. His story is legendary in the Bay for what he went through to get eligable again. Good guy, amazing game. I was so glad that he was leaving Richmond.

  • Jason

    Eli is a great guy. I live in the Bay Area and work with teenagers as a Youth Pastor. One of my kids played with Eli last year, so I saw him several times. His story is legendary in the Bay for what he went through to get eligable again. Good guy, amazing game. I was so glad that he was leaving Richmond.

  • Mr. Meblin

    A vote for Eli, from a terribly biased person – his US Govt teacher last year at Richmond High School. Yes, he was a super-star last year. Yes, he came to class late (1st period – normal for seniors). Yes, he did his homework, and yes, he passed the class demonstrating a high level of traditional intelligence (good at reading and writing) as well as a thorough knowledge of how to make people like him.

    The scene at Richmond High is fairly tame – I’ve only seen one gun in 4 years. The scene in the streets is bad. The fact that Eli has made it this far without a major chip on his shoulder is wonderful. He doesn’t act like he is owed anything.
    He IS that great.

  • A vote for Eli, from a terribly biased person – his US Govt teacher last year at Richmond High School. Yes, he was a super-star last year. Yes, he came to class late (1st period – normal for seniors). Yes, he did his homework, and yes, he passed the class demonstrating a high level of traditional intelligence (good at reading and writing) as well as a thorough knowledge of how to make people like him.

    The scene at Richmond High is fairly tame – I’ve only seen one gun in 4 years. The scene in the streets is bad. The fact that Eli has made it this far without a major chip on his shoulder is wonderful. He doesn’t act like he is owed anything.
    He IS that great.

  • another soul

    I enojoyed reading this article. I too,just like Elijah, am from the city of Richmond,otherwise known as “murder capitol”, “lil Iraq”, and “gothem city” amongst us younger ones. I had the honor of actually knowing him,and going to school with him,and befriending him.He was always just so humble about everything, and always worked hard. In middle school,he wasn’t the best basketball player,but he always tried, and I see him now, and gives many hope over here. It’s sad,because over here in Richmond, we’re more likely to get murdered or end up in prison at some point in life, than we are to go too college and succed. It wasn’t shocking either, when he was shot,because that’s life over here, I have more die, than best friends I got that are still alive. And you see what the comment above me says? it says “I’ve only seen one gun in 4 years”!! Most teachers never see those at other schools. But its no lie,or exaggeration, many kids come armed at school for “protection”. It’s nice for someone to finally write an article like this, and actually depict how hard it is for us kids to become something,rather than bashing us,on how “violent” we are,or how ghetto we live. So I hope one day when Eli in on an NBA court, everyone in Richmond will put the guns down,and set aside beefs with one another, to cherish the fact that someone really made it. The last person i’ve heard that did this big was probably Courtney Anderson,aslo from Richmond. He played football with my cousin, but even his road to success was long, but last i heard he’s still in the NFL.

  • another soul

    I enojoyed reading this article. I too,just like Elijah, am from the city of Richmond,otherwise known as “murder capitol”, “lil Iraq”, and “gothem city” amongst us younger ones. I had the honor of actually knowing him,and going to school with him,and befriending him.He was always just so humble about everything, and always worked hard. In middle school,he wasn’t the best basketball player,but he always tried, and I see him now, and gives many hope over here. It’s sad,because over here in Richmond, we’re more likely to get murdered or end up in prison at some point in life, than we are to go too college and succed. It wasn’t shocking either, when he was shot,because that’s life over here, I have more die, than best friends I got that are still alive. And you see what the comment above me says? it says “I’ve only seen one gun in 4 years”!! Most teachers never see those at other schools. But its no lie,or exaggeration, many kids come armed at school for “protection”. It’s nice for someone to finally write an article like this, and actually depict how hard it is for us kids to become something,rather than bashing us,on how “violent” we are,or how ghetto we live. So I hope one day when Eli in on an NBA court, everyone in Richmond will put the guns down,and set aside beefs with one another, to cherish the fact that someone really made it. The last person i’ve heard that did this big was probably Courtney Anderson,aslo from Richmond. He played football with my cousin, but even his road to success was long, but last i heard he’s still in the NFL.

  • Daiton

    Man i’m from richmond n i know Eli, but sorry people Richmond is not all that bad, its jus another city that has a kill rate, of course tho in every city theres places u are to never go thru jus like richmond, but for real yall, richmond is a good place, wht bout all the other places out there like up north in indy or whtever ppl getting raped up there, but yall wanna disrespect and downplay richmond, its ok just remember richmond is the home birthplace of Toy Story and Monster Inc.

  • Daiton

    Man i’m from richmond n i know Eli, but sorry people Richmond is not all that bad, its jus another city that has a kill rate, of course tho in every city theres places u are to never go thru jus like richmond, but for real yall, richmond is a good place, wht bout all the other places out there like up north in indy or whtever ppl getting raped up there, but yall wanna disrespect and downplay richmond, its ok just remember richmond is the home birthplace of Toy Story and Monster Inc.

  • J3RM

    As a citizen or Richmond I find this argument condescending and errant. Richmond is not as violent a place as this article makes it seem. Elijah is my brother and he would not want his hometwn portrayed in this way. This article is total B.S !!!!!! Except for the the appreciaton of my brothers accomplishments.

  • J3RM

    As a citizen or Richmond I find this argument condescending and errant. Richmond is not as violent a place as this article makes it seem. Elijah is my brother and he would not want his hometwn portrayed in this way. This article is total B.S !!!!!! Except for the the appreciaton of my brothers accomplishments.

  • J3RM

    As a citizen or Richmond I find this argument condescending and errant. Richmond is not as violent a place as this article makes it seem. Elijah is my brother and he would not want his hometwn portrayed in this way. This article is total B.S !!!!!! Except for the the appreciaton of my brothers accomplishments.

  • Eli is now headed to Detroit has you all probably know. Willie Green made it from U of D, why not Eli?

    http://www.collegefastbreak.com/

  • Eli is now headed to Detroit has you all probably know. Willie Green made it from U of D, why not Eli?

    http://www.collegefastbreak.com/

  • Richmond

    Im from Richmond, it's not as bad as they say. Or maybe Im used to it. Eli is a cool guy though, I know. He dunked on me once haha

  • Richmond

    Im from Richmond, it's not as bad as they say. Or maybe Im used to it. Eli is a cool guy though, I know. He dunked on me once haha