Eli Holman’s grin is almost as big as his size 19 shoes.
The 6-foot-10 Richmond High School center showed it off Wednesday, especially when the talk turned to the posterizing (dunking on) of a former 6-9 player from Richmond.
His eyes and face lit up when he recalled how he caught the former player, who shall remain nameless, "slipping" under the basket at 24-hour Fitness in Richmond.
At 17, Holman is your typical teenager, excited and uncertain about his future. He’s looking forward to graduation, and the left-handed big man with an improved 3-point shot is eagerly anticipating his freshman year at Indiana next year after signing with the Hoosiers back on Nov. 8.
But unlike most teenagers, Holman has been the center of controversy and media attention for the last 13 months.
Ever since the incident on Dec. 3, 2005 that changed his life.
In a closely contested game against Tennyson during the Jeremy Jack Invitational tournament, Holman did the unthinkable and pushed an official, not once but twice, after being whistled for a foul.
There isn’t a day that goes by that Holman doesn’t hear about or regret that move.
It essentially cost Holman his high school playing career.
The North Coast Section suspended him for 18 months, but left the door open for his return if he completed a series of tasks, which included anger management, maintaining his grades and staying out of trouble both on and off the court, set out by a three-person committee back in January of 2006.
Holman thought he had completed the tasks, but filing of incorrect paperwork by Richmond High officials resulted in the California Interscholastic Federation denying him reinstatement on Dec. 2, 2006.
"CIF based their decision on inaccurate data provided to them by Richmond High School," said Richmond High principal Orlando Ramos. "Richmond High School accepts full responsibility for these reporting errors."
Wednesday, Richmond High officials held a press conference to admit their mistake and ask the CIF to take a second look at Holman’s reinstatement, this time with the corrected information.
Part of the reason for the press conference was for Richmond to admit and accept its mistake, but to also point out that Holman is not a short-tempered guy.
"I want the public to know that I am not individual that I have been painted to be," Holman said. "I am a compassionate and caring individual. I care about my community. I just want a chance to redeem myself and play well. I was 16 and made a mistake."
Yes, you heard him.
He knows he made a mistake. The only difference is that his has been publicized since he made it.
"There has not been a day that goes by that I don’t hear about it," Holman said. "I made a mistake and hopefully they can forgive and move on."
Holman sought out and apologized to the referee he pushed, David Mullins. The apology was via telephone two months ago.
Wednesday a way from the cameras and reporters, Holman was heard telling Mullins, "Even if I don’t play high school ball again, I just wanted to let you know I am sorry."
With his college future already set, Holman knows he doesn’t have to play high school basketball, but he wants to.
"I feel its important for my team and community and more so the youth," Holman said. "I want to prove it was an honest mistake. Let’s move on. It’s a big thing for my community."