There was a time when Eli Holman cringed at the thought that his next basketball game might not come until his college career was underway.
A little more than a year ago, Holman was involved in an on-court altercation with a referee during a Richmond (Cal.) H.S. basketball game. Holman reportedly pushed the official after getting called for a technical foul, and the results of his decision were dire.
In accordance with conference rules, Holman was immediately suspended for the remainder of his prep career. That ruling resulted in months of appeals from Holman and plenty of pleas from various groups – including the official involved – to reinstate Holman for his senior season, all of which have fallen on deaf ears to date.
But after escaping injury from a drive-by shooting late last week in Richmond, Holman's focus is no longer on figuring out on how he can get back on the Richmond H.S. floor. Instead, the 6-9, 210-pound IU signee is figuring out what he needs to do to make sure he makes it to Bloomington next summer.
Holman has reportedly decided to leave Richmond H.S. and instead be home schooled to complete work on his high school degree. Last week's incident – which resulted in a bullet grazing Holman's shoulder after it went through the passenger side window of the Mercedes Holman was in – has Holman thinking much more about his long-term future instead of the short-term gain of regaining his eligibility at the prep level.
"That's a scary situation," IU Coach Kelvin Sampson said Friday. "Where he lives, in that area, that's an everyday occurrence."
Located in the San Francisco Bay area, Richmond is, statistically, the most dangerous city in California. It's a city of a little more than 100,000 that had 40 murders in 2006 alone. At one time the crime issue was so bad that the city's mayor asked for a declaration of a state of emergency, requesting that the Contra Costa County Sheriff and the California Highway Patrol get involved to slow down the crime wave.
"We're here in the Midwest in a very safe place," Sampson said. "(Eli) doesn't live in a safe place. He lives in a very violent place…when I was at Washington State, going through Oakland, we've heard how dangerous Oakland is. Richmond is worse."
Sampson said he's talked with Holman since the incident and the IU-bound forward/center is doing well. He's expected to conclude work on his high school degree this spring and then get to Bloomington as soon as he's received his high school diploma.
When he does arrive it will be with a degree of basketball rust – after all, it will have been 1 ½ years since he played a basketball game – but at this point, Holman appears more concerned about making sure he avoids any similar situations that could derail his college basketball plans.
"I told him there are certain things in your life you can control – you can control your friends, you can control your decisions," Sampson said. "It's not like he's not going to make a mistake like all of us.
"Making a mistake isn't the problem – it's repeating it. I think he's learned from his past mistakes."
After battling for months to regain his high school eligibility, one near tragic incident has seemingly changed Holman's priorities. His focus has turned from appeals and petitions and press conferences to school work and staying out of harm's way for the next five or six months.
"The main thing for him is to focus on continuing to bring his grades up," Sampson said. "His last reporting period he had all As and Bs, and he was excited about that. Hopefully he'll continue to improve academically."