BOZICH | With forgiveness, Emmitt Holt rewriting his story as Indiana beats Pitt
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – For the first 48 hours after the accident, Tom Crean refused to let Emmitt Holt be alone. The parent in Crean knew that Holt needed love. Love first. Discipline later.
Devin Davis was hurt. But Emmitt Holt was hurting, too.
You remember the story. Some people screamed that it was the collapse of the Indiana basketball program.
Davis was hospitalized after he was struck by a vehicle driven by Holt, an Indiana freshman. Halloween Night immaturity gone nearly tragically bad. Another in a string of off-the-court incidents at IU.
Nobody was predicting that Emmitt Holt would score 15 points and lead Indiana to an 81-69 victory over Pittsburgh that night. On that night, they were wondering what Crean was going to do with Holt. Punishment, something harsh.
This is what Crean did: He treated Holt as if he was one of his children.
It wasn't time to stop parenting Holt. It was time to start. Crean knew that Holt was in considerable pain, too.
Had to be. His teammate was in the hospital with a fractured skull. Holt's name had gone viral on the Internet because he was a minor who'd had a drink, or maybe a couple, before he took the wheel and then hit Davis not far from Assembly Hall.
Holt was only a freshman more than 600 miles from home in upstate New York. Crean told his staff that Holt was not to be left alone for at least 48 hours.
There were days when Emmitt Holt wondered how he could ever forgive himself. He was the driver. Davis was the victim. It was an accident, but now there was a police report that put his blood alcohol content at 0.025 and his teammate in intensive care.
“It changed my life forever,” Holt said.
“I think this team has learned – knock on wood, we could have an issue tonight, it's youth – but I think they've learned when something is taken away, they're going to respond to that,” Crean said.
Before I move into the details of Emmitt Holt's jarring introduction on a national stage Tuesday night, credit begins with Devin Davis' family.
Holt started the process of forgiving himself when Davis' family told Holt that forgiveness was the only option. That process started on the night after Davis was hospitalized and was still lying hospitalized.
“The first thing was they forgave me,” Holt said. “That was the biggest thing for me because I hurt their child.
“After that they were just supporting me along the way. They knew I felt bad for what I did.”
Type Emmitt Holt's name into a search engine today and another story line will emerge:
Unknown freshman forward scores 15 points, swallows five rebounds and blocks two shots to stir the Hoosiers to an 81-69 victory over Pitt Tuesday night in Assembly Hall, Indiana's contribution to the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a challenge the Big Ten leads 6-to-2.
“We have not seen Emmitt quite like that,” Crean said. “That's a pretty good Emmitt right there.”
Get this: Holt played 19 minutes after playing a total 17 minutes in Indiana's first six games. He entered when teammate Hanner Mosquera-Perea found himself in foul trouble. Then Holt scored more points that James Blackmon Jr. (13) or Robert Johnson (6), Indiana's two primary freshman. It was his first real opportunity -- and Holt delivered.
Of course, Holt was a locker room spectator for the first two IU games, serving his suspension for being involved in the accident. There were mornings when he reported to Cook Hall, IU's practice facility, before 6 a.m.
His responsibility? Just say he did more than his share of cleaning.
The story gets better. Holt did it with Davis, still healing, sitting in the first row behind the Indiana bench. Holt did it by doing a reasonable impression of A.J. Moye, the powerfully built forward who played on the Hoosiers' 2002 NCAA Final Four team.
Holt, who is 6 feet 7 with his Nerlens Noel flat top, played like a guy who believed that his next meal depended upon getting every or contesting every shot.
Crean's voice still catches when he talks about what Davis – and Holt – have endured.
The players are responsible for their actions -- and the issues it created. Crean still says that. Holt should not have been drinking. Davis should not have helped put Holt into that situation.
But a near tragedy doesn't have to remain a near tragedy forever. Stories can add another chapter. Guys can learn lessons harshly delivered. They can stop feeling sorry for themselves and start showing they have learned a different way.
People have been howling about Indiana's lack of interior defense and rebounding, especially after IU lost to Eastern Washington last week. Maybe Holt can eliminate some of the soft play the Hoosiers have endured around the rim.
Remember this nugget: Holt did not commit to Indiana until August 20, five days before classes began for the fall semester.
Typically, when a program receives a commitment in late August it's from a junior. Or the program is desperate. Or a coach has some inside information. Or the staff is hoping for a miracle.
Choose your own option.
The truth is that Crean knew his team needed another rebounder. Holt was bound for a prep school in Vermont. He made one final trip through the summer AAU circuit trying to impress a major program.
Chuck Martin, an Indiana assistant, saw Holt help his team make the finals of the national AAU event in Louisville last July. Martin did more research and saw that Holt blocked more than his share of shots on the Nike EYBL circuit. Indiana gathered more video.
The Hoosiers made their offer. Holt was sold.
Holt did many solid things Tuesday night. He played with confidence. He took six shots. He made six shots. He played without fear. He did not turn the ball over.
“I guess it came out of the blue,” Holt said. “We're working hard every day in practice. Just something that came about. I have a great support group. I'd like to thank my team, my family and coaches for helping me through the struggle.”
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