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Holman leaves team indefinitely

Star excused from basketball after report of alleged assault at fraternity house

By Michael Martinez
On September 28, 2011

  • Eli Holman, one of the most popular Titan basketball players, has been given a leave of absence after allegedly breaking the nose of a fellow UDM student in an altercation at a fraternity house

UDM basketball star Eli Holman has been removed from all team-related activities for an indefinite period, according to Athletic Director Keri Gaither.

The removal follows an incident in which he allegedly assaulted a student, sending him to the hospital with a broken nose.

UDM senior Brad Harbison told Detroit Police that Holman assaulted him in the early-morning hours Saturday, Sept. 17, at a party at the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity house at 16800 Fairfield.

In a Detroit Police report, officer Kenneth Cawley noted that Harbison said Holman struck him "in the nose and mouth with a closed fist two times then left. Mr. Harbison was conveyed to Beaumont Hospital by a friend at 2 a.m."

Harbison told The Varsity News that Holman broke his nose in two places and chipped two of his teeth.

Holman, one of the team's most popular players, is in his final year of eligibility with the Titans. Last season, he led the team with 9.8 rebounds per game and was second in points, scoring 11.8 per contest. He is expected to have a legitimate shot at being drafted in the NBA, and the Titans are expected to contend for the Horizon League title.

"It's hard from a competitive standpoint," Gaither said. "You're unsure of what will happen, ultimately, competitively, but at our university there are certain standards."

The altercation began in the fraternity house basement, where music was playing and a group of basketball players were hanging on water pipes, according to Harbison and Phi Kappa Theta president Robert Collard.

They said a member of the fraternity, Vinnie Paoletta, tapped a player on the shoulder and asked him to stop.

"Whenever we see anyone hang on them we ask them to leave," Collard said. "It's our procedure."

When Paoletta did, the player turned around and grabbed his shirt, they said.

According to Harbison, Collard and Paoletta, Holman punched Paoletta in the face.

"He came out of nowhere," Harbison said.

When Paoletta turned to head up the stairs, Holman allegedly followed him, punching him a second time on the stairs and then a third time on the main floor of the house, according to Harbison and Collard.

Once on the main floor, Holman allegedly assaulted a second student. According to Harbison and Collard, Holman held the student against the wall by pushing his forearm against his throat.

"I got in between the two of them," Harbison said. "I started to back Eli out of the door, and when I got to the front door, I got hit once in the face. I fell and was hit again while I was on the ground."

A day after The Varsity News obtained the police report and inquired about the incident, Gaither released a statement Tuesday describing Holman's leave of absence.

"We have been working with Eli for some time to assist him in addressing his personal and private matters," she said. "At this time, we feel it is in Eli's best interest to step away from basketball to allow him to concentrate on these matters. He has been excused from all team-related activity for an indefinite period while actively addressing these issues.

"We continue to support Eli during this time and we are asking everyone's cooperation in respecting his privacy."

Gaither said Holman is still part of the team, just not allowed to practice with the other players.

"He will still be supported through our policies as far as academics, study tables, that sort of thing," she said. "He can still talk with coaches, still has access to Calihan; he just can't be part of team-related activities."

Gaither said the removal wasn't directly related to the alleged assault.

"It's in conjunction with a series of personal issues," she said.

A closed-door hearing related to the incident was held Tuesday on campus with Harbison, Holman, Collard, university officials and others attending.

Harbison said he is awaiting the results of the hearing, which could come Monday, before deciding whether to pursue charges.

Holman was contacted twice by The Varsity News but declined comment both times.

He has been involved in two other incidents.

He was released from Indiana University following an incident with then-head coach Tom Crean. According to reports, Holman broke a flower pot in the men's basketball office prompting office staff to call university police.

Last season, he served a mandatory one-game suspension after a Jan. 8 contest against UIC in which he swung his right arm near a player's groin.

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