Eli Holman is no cautionary tale

Don’t close your eyes when the Detroit Titans are introduced tonight in front of the crowd at Calihan Hall.  Take it in.

For allegedly assaulting three frat boys, Holman missed much of Detroit's non-conference schedule. An appropriate response.

Ray McCallum Jr., Chase Simon, Jason Calliste, Doug Anderson and LeMarcus Lowe will trot out as the starting lineup for the Titans, but they won’t be the five with the most minutes.

Barring foul trouble, the player with the most minutes at the center spot in tonight’s game will be Eli Holman.

Eli Holman, I say.  Since coming back from “indefinite leave,” Eli Holman and the Detroit Titans are 9-6, sitting at 7-6 in the conference and in sixth place, setting themselves up for a home game in the conference tournament.

In case you need a refresher, Eli Holman went on indefinite leave after allegedly assaulting three members of a frat house on Detroit’s campus back in September, breaking one kid’s nose.

The story went down like this. One of the basketball players at a frat party was hanging on pipes in the basement. After asking the player repeatedly to not hang from the pipes, Holman assaulted one of the students.  Fearing for their safety, the fraternity brothers fled, with Holman attacking two more, eventually knocking one to the ground and breaking his nose.

It was at this point that Holman’s teammates restrained him, and the members of the Titans’ basketball team left the scene.  Holman did not commit any other crimes that night.

Holman slams home the ball. Would you like to see that fist cave in your nose?

In case you’re wondering, that is Aggravated Assault in the state of Michigan.  What are the penalties for this, you ask?  I just so happened to stumble across them using my super Google powers:

Aggravated assault is a misdemeanor in Michigan. It is defined by Michigan statute as an assault, without a weapon, that results in a serious or aggravated injury.

I’d certainly consider a broken nose to be serious or aggravated injury.  The fact that Holman’s attack was put through with little provocation and he needed to be restrained from continuing to pummel a defenseless frat boy is all I need to know that this wasn’t your run of the mill “kid talks smack, guy punches kid, end of story.”  Holman had little provocation, then proceeded to chase and assault three fraternity brothers during the incident.

This was reported in the Varsity News, UDM’s student newspaper.  The same paper reported that the student with the broken nose was holding off legal action pending the response by the university.

So, what was the response by the university?

Eli Holman took an “indefinite leave of absence” from the program.  He ended up missing ten games (the Titans have played 25 so far), coming back to the program before the St. John’s game, but first appearing on the bench in the Titans’ match-up with Western Michigan, a game in which Holman scored 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

It was the day of the St. John’s game, when word had spread of Holman’s return, that I sent an e-mail to Detroit’s AD Keri Gaither to ask her about Holman’s status.

Her response:

Hi Jimmy,

Thanks for your support & interest in Titan Athletics.

I wish I could give you a definite answer but the truth is, I don’t know. We are all hoping to have Eli return as soon as possible.

Again, thanks for your support.

Keri

The first and third sentences are the stock answer that writers love to get.  The middle one, where she addresses the question.

She doesn’t know.

The athletic director? Doesn’t know?  What kind of world is this?

When Torre Johnson got drunk and hit his girlfriend, he was immediately apologetic and cowered in a closet to avoid further spats.  He was off the team by noon the next day.

The one time I met him in person, Eli Holman seemed like a genuinely happy-go-lucky guy. But demeanor in front of fans is no excuse for actions away from the cameras.

Eli Holman attacked three frat boys, in a scene with many eyewitnesses, and had to be pulled off one that had been pinned to the ground and was absorbing blows.  He got a two-month vacation from the program and although he isn’t starting, he’s played starter’s minutes in almost all of the 15 games he has appeared in.

For misdemeanor Aggravated Assault in Michigan, the punishment is up to one year in prison and $1,000 in fines.  With three counts, Holman should have been looking at up to three years of prison time.  He’s lucky he doesn’t have prior convictions, because those would come with a possible “enhanced sentence.”

Of course, just because he doesn’t have prior convictions doesn’t mean it’s the first time Holman has exhibited violent behavior.  He left Indiana after a verbal spat with Tom Crean (totally understandable, Tan Tommy is a douche) which culminated in him knocking over a potted plant.  Last year, he missed a game for suspension after punching a UIC player in the groin.

If you ask me, Holman is too much like a kid.  Frustrated with your role on the team? Temper tantrum. Angry that the game isn’t going the way it should? Punch the guy in the balls. Don’t like the frat boy pushing you around? Push him til he doesn’t push back.

This is not the behavior of someone who deserves a full-ride scholarship to a reputable NCAA D-I university.

Essentially, Holman missed the part of the schedule that matters least – non-conference.  He came back when the Titans needed him most, and he’s been back ever since.  The Titans are 9-6, 7-4 in conference since his return.

The worst part about it, other than the alleged assault itself, is the enabling of Holman by Detroit Titans Athletics.

What do Ray McCallum Sr., Keri Gaither and the rest of the Titans tell us with their actions in this situation?

Victories mean more than justice.

Here’s to hoping the Black and Gold serve some up tonight.

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Keeping chase

Have you ever been to a horse race?

Even though it only takes one lap to finish – this ain’t NASCAR – the winner is not the sprinter, but the one who goes the distance.

We’re in turn three, only five games away from the finish line (four for Valpo).  And for the second time in as many years, Milwaukee does not control its fate.

Last night, Valparaiso emerged from the battle in Cleveland as the front runner.  Despite tying the Vikings in the loss column (3), Valpo swept the season series with Cleveland State and thus owns the tie-breaker.

It was a decisive victory for the Crusaders, a road laugher against the team many of us thought of as the top dogs.  Cleveland State’s aura of impenetrability was dashed quickly by Valpo, who dropped their high-scoring hammer on the Vikings.

If Panther fans were hoping for some clarity Thursday night, they were left disappointed.  Now three teams are within two losses of the championship, and five teams are within three.  Butler knocked out Youngstown State at the Beeghly Center, giving the victory for the night to the state of Indiana (no Hoosiers) and pushing a gridlock at both first and third place.

And then we have Milwaukee.  Banished to ESPN3 by the Horizon League, ESPN and their own failure in social media marketing, the Panthers will play surging Detroit with third place up for grabs, yet again.

It’s intriguing, really – should the Panthers lose tonight, the Panthers would find themselves in a four-way tie with Butler, Detroit, and Youngstown State.  Tiebreakers are a non-starter, as there’s very little chance that a four-way tie persists at the end of the season.

Milwaukee can put the slimmest of margins between themselves and the pack with a victory in Calihan Hall, their third in a row at the storied gym and in the process put any thoughts of them finishing out of the top six to rest.

The thing is, a victory at Calihan Hall shouldn’t direct your eyes at the rest of the pack. Instead, set your sights dead on Cleveland State.

Should Milwaukee go 5-0 the rest of the way, all the Panthers would need is for Cleveland State to lose one more conference game and they’d be guaranteed the #2 seed in the Horizon League Tournament.  I’m a big proponent of the “go 1-0 every game” philosophy, but it’s intriguing to know that all you need is one stumble from the Vikings to get the double-bye.

The possibility that Cleveland State could lose one more time (besides at Milwaukee) is intriguing.  They play a home game against Butler, a road game at Green Bay, and home games against Detroit and Wright State.  There are no Chicago schools remaining on the schedule, no bunnies to feast.  Their “worst” opponent remaining is Wright State, who is only four losses behind them in the right column.

So the championship is not out of the question, especially a co-championship or a second-place finish. Milwaukee just has to drop all the B.S. and take care of business – a victory every game from here on out.

 

It’s official: ESPN and the Horizon bone us again

In case you were unaware before, the Horizon League and ESPN decided that they were going to put two games to a vote as to which game would make it on ESPNU.

Last time, the vote was between Green Bay versus Cleveland State and Milwaukee versus Youngstown State.  As you know, the GB-CSU game won, forcing Milwaukee fans to watch their road game at Youngstown State on ESPN3.

Well, be prepared to watch the Horizon League match-up on February 10th against Detroit on ESPN3.com as well.

That’s because in a second vote, the Horizon League and ESPNU have decided to put the Green Bay at Wright State game on ESPNU over the Milwaukee at Detroit game.

In a short voting session on Facebook, the Panthers saw their second shot at a nationally-televised game evaporate before their eyes.  The final vote came back at 1,801 to 1,759, a mere 42 votes to decide a nationally-televised game.

Here is the full vote.

The Panthers will play at Detroit on ESPN3.com, their fourth such game this season.  The Youngstown State game, Northern Iowa, and Michigan State were all played on the internet.  Michigan State was on BTN.com, the pay website for the Big Ten Network.

So what should your reaction be to this news?  OUTRAGE.

The Horizon League and ESPN decided to put games up for a vote in the first place, which was ridiculous.  It’s one thing to try and get people interested in your brand through social networking, it’s another thing entirely to screw over universities in the process.

Put it this way.  Not only are fans in Washington D.C., Phoenix, Chicago and elsewhere (big pockets of Black and Gold) unable to see the Panthers play their game at Detroit, but so are recruits that the coaching staff are desperately trying to bring to Milwaukee.  With this move made by the Horizon League and ESPNU, the Panthers have effectively been shut out of national television.  Recruiting players in the area is nice – Time Warner Sports puts us in a decent percentage of southeast Wisconsin homes (although not nearly enough).

But we don’t recruit solely in southeast Wisconsin.  We recruit nationally.  And how are players from around the country supposed to see Milwaukee as a big-time mid-major program if they have to crowd around a computer screen to see our games?

It doesn’t even make sense.  Forty-two fans separate the winner and loser.  I don’t know if I’m mistaken, but I’m pretty sure many fans from every school in the conference don’t have Facebook.

In fact, I overheard a discussion in the minutes leading up to the Valpo game between two season-ticket holding fans. “Why are they putting it on Facebook? I don’t have Facebook!”

The truth is, Milwaukee just got screwed out of another game.  Despite averaging about 1,600 more fans per game than Green Bay, it is the Phoenix fan base that will be watching their team on the road at Wright State.

Vote for Milwaukee-Detroit!

VOTE NOW

A few weeks ago, fans of Milwaukee, Green Bay, Youngstown State and Cleveland State had the opportunity to vote for their programs to get a nationally televised game on ESPNU.

Despite our best efforts to get people to vote, the Green Bay at Cleveland State game ended up on national TV, while the Milwaukee at Youngstown State game ended up on ESPN3.com.

Why is that?  Milwaukee has the highest attendance of the four schools, and YSU has a big football following that would be willing to at least vote on facebook.

The truth is, the Panthers and Penguins lost the vote last time because the folks at Green Bay and Cleveland State were more proactive.  The Sports Information Departments at both schools pushed readers of their website and followers on Twitter and Facebook to vote for their game, and thus the smaller fan bases won an ESPNU game that wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the Milwaukee/YSU game.

Now, we have another opportunity.  Milwaukee plays Detroit on Friday, February 10th. That same night, Wright State hosts Green Bay.  ESPN is putting it up to a vote again.  Guess who is promoting it?  Wright State.  Despite the Raiders putting on the full court press in promoting the game, Milwaukee-Detroit is currently winning.  Then again, Milwaukee-YSU was winning until late in the voting process, so we need to make sure that the Panthers get on National TV this time around.

Send this to all your friends on Facebook and Twitter.  VOTE NOW!

Detroit’s last gasp

Make no mistake, this isn’t a team that is acting like it has no room for error.

The Detroit Titans are acting completely opposite, playing loose and filling the buckets up as if they were the ones sitting in first place.

But the proof is in the pudding. If Detroit loses at Milwaukee tonight at 7 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Arena, the conference championship race is all but over for the Titans.

This is one bad dude.

Coach Ray McCallum’s team began the Horizon League season 1-4, but has won two in a row.  The Titans upset Butler in a surprisingly easy game at home, then this past Thursday took a decisive victory over the Green Bay Phoenix.

The big news from Detroit is its big man, senior center Eli Holman. Since returning to the lineup, the Titans are 5-4 and Holman has been no small part of that, scoring double figures in all but three of those games (Alabama, Alabama State, Butler).

Leading the Titans in scoring, assists and steals is none other than Ray McCallum Jr., the McDonald’s All-American who is in his sophomore season as the point guard and focal point of father Ray Sr.’s offense.  Ray Jr. is also pulling down 4.8 rebounds per contest, fourth on the team, and is shooting 45% from the field.

The interesting thing about Detroit’s desperation is that it is nothing new this season.  No team in the conference has had as interesting a fall semester as the Titans, who saw both Eli Holman and P.J. Boutte get arrested as well as Chris Blake and Brandon Romain sit out after being academically ineligible. These problems were compounded when senior forward Nick Minnerath tore his ACL at Bowling Green and was forced into a medical redshirt.

Chase Simon likes shooting. A lot.

It was this desperation that forced the Titans’ hand, bringing back Eli Holman in an extremely questionable move as his assault case is still pending.  Maybe they thought people would forget; I certainly did not.  The senior center is not starting and is only playing 22 minutes per game, but the team would be completely lost without him. He leads the team in rebounds per game and is second in blocks per game, helping a team that went 2-4 in between Nick Minnerath’s injury and Holman’s return to game action.

The Titans center has attempted double digit shots only twice so far this season, both in high scoring affairs.  He was extremely limited in the Butler game, attempting only three shots and scoring two points while only playing 15 minutes in the victory.

No player has scored more points in the Horizon League this season than Chase Simon, Calihan Hall’s resident volume shooter.  Despite outscoring everyone with 266 points this season and being fourth in scoring at 14.9 points per game, Simon is shooting a pedestrian 38.3% from the field and only 30.3% from beyond the arc. The shooting guard has also shot 240 attempts, 14 more than the next best Horizon League player (Ben Averkamp) and 19 more than Ray Jr. If one thing is to be said about the Titans’ guards, it’s that no one is aching for more shots.

Ray McCallum Sr.'s coaching philosophy is simple: everything go through Ray McCallum Jr.

The Titans play a loose style of basketball that relies on their talented point guard to be a sort of jack of all trades to set up the offense.  Ray Jr. fills that role for Detroit, and although the ball doesn’t get down to Eli Holman nearly as much as it should, they still get their share of victories.  The Titans can score from nearly anywhere on the floor, which makes defending them a tall task, even for a defensive juggernaut like the Panthers.

Still, at 3-4 with eleven games remaining on their schedule, the Titans are running out of time fast.  Since Valparaiso bumped conference membership up to ten, the conference champion has never had more than five losses in any given season.  In fact, second place (and the double bye that goes with it) has never gone to a team with more than six losses.

So when we say that Detroit has no margin for error, we mean it.  The Titans are one of the most talented teams in the Horizon League, but talent will only get you so far.

We’ll see just how far it gets them tonight.

Detroit AD brings news to Panther fans

Behind the scenes this has been discussed quite a bit, but no one has put this out in the open until today.  With the University of Detroit Mercy’s Detroit Titans in town is Keri Gaither, the Athletic Director for the Titans.  When traveling, Horizon League members tend to rub elbows with each other.  Gaither tweeted about the Panthers options for the arena, including the quiet possibility for the university to purchase the U.S. Cellular Arena from the Wisconsin Center District.

Personally, everyone here knows that I’m all for building the arena on-campus.  The U.S. Cellular Arena has some very enticing things going for it: its central location is easy for nearly everyone to get to, the seating has great sight lines, and small construction costs.  But there are bad problems to go along with the Cell, as I’ll get to that later.

In the meantime, take this news and run with it.

Horizon League Power Rankings (12.12.11)

This is a big week for Horizon League teams in non-conference play.  Some games on the docket this week include #15 Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Cincinnati at Wright State and UIC at Oregon State. Cincinnati/Wright State is a very intriguing matchup due to Cincinnati’s major suspensions from their brawl at Xavier.  Wright State has a real chance to steal one at home.  Milwaukee also welcomes a major rival to their home floor as they take on Jordan Taylor and the Wisconsin Badgers.  They key to this game for the Panthers is to avoid going cold on offense, and that will be a huge task with tenacity the Badgers display on defense. Still, an upset against Wisconsin would be huge for Milwaukee’s confidence as they inch closer to conference play, and could move them up to the top of the Power Rankings.  See where they’re currently at, below…

In descending order…

Free Ben Averkamp.

10. Loyola (2-7) – Despite their most recent victory, the Ramblers are a one-man band that will struggle to win more than 2 league games this year.  Without Ben Averkamp’s monster game on Saturday, the Ramblers would have lost to a Toledo team that is one of the worst in the nation.  That tells you all you need to know about where they belong in this conference.

9. UIC (3-5) – A more balanced win, but over a similar opponent as Loyola. Northern Illinois is a really bad team as is evidenced by their 0-8 record.  Still, UIC managed to win, and they can earn a “moral victory” by keeping it close against Oregon State later this week.

8. Green Bay (4-6) – The Phoenix had a tough week, getting blown out by Wisconsin and Marquette. That was to be expected, but they’re not exactly upwardly mobile at this point.  Don’t expect them to move up this list much in the next couple weeks, as their only game in the next week and a half is against Michigan Tech.  At least they won’t have any bad losses, right?

7. Wright State (4-6) – A win over Miami (OH) isn’t what you would call a “good” win, but to beat an in-state rival is always a good win.  The interstate battle continues as the Raiders host Cincinnati and Ohio in the next week.  There’s a real opportunity here for the Raiders to move on up this list…

6. Butler (4-6) – Yet another 4-6 team, Butler has been a disappointment so far.  We knew they would struggle.  The question was, how much?  Losing to a decent Ball State team is not what the Bulldogs were hoping for to start off a 4-game road trip that includes games against Purdue, Gonzaga, and Stanford.  The Bulldogs could re-enter league play at 4-9 with their “signature” victory coming over Savannah State (seriously).  Not exactly the start Coach Stevens was hoping for.

Doug Anderson's athleticism has been on full display.

5. Detroit (5-7) – If the key to winning basketball games was getting exciting fast break dunks, the Titans would be in the Top 25. Led by high flying wing Doug Anderson, the Titans are starting to play a better brand of basketball, but the turnovers persist.  Ray McCallum and the crew take on #16 Mississippi State on Saturday.  Their chances of victory are greatly improved by Eli Holman’s controversial reinstatement.  If the offense goes through him, there are few teams on the schedule they can’t beat.

4. Youngstown State (6-3) – The Penguins lack an impressive victory, and a loss to Buffalo is nothing to be ashamed about. They’re on the right track, but they have a long way to go if they expect to stay in this spot. The teams directly behind them certainly won’t be complacent.

3. Valparaiso (7-3) – The Crusaders can get a nice win over visiting Oakland on Saturday, and they are just a small step behind in these Power Rankings.  They have a very good shot at winning their next 3 games which would give them a 10-3 record before their matchup against Milwaukee in conference play.  Go Valpo!

2. Milwaukee (8-2) – The Panthers suffered a tough loss at Northern Iowa, but the UNI Panthers are a really good, tournament caliber team.  The Panthers can bounce back with a HUGE game against the Wisconsin Badgers on Tuesday.  If they can shock Wisconsin, it would be one of the biggest regular season wins in Milwaukee’s history.

1. Cleveland State (10-1) – The Vikings continue to win in a variety of ways, but they’ve shown their vulnerability.  Ten wins is sweet, but the Vikings have a pretty weak non-conference slate in the next couple weeks, so improving their RPI is probably about as high as it’s going to be (#38) for the rest of the year. At this point, however, they have the best chance of any team in the conference at obtaining an at-large berth.