This was going to be the Detroit Titans' year. With Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack no longer at Butler, Ray McCallum's team is arguably the most talented in the Horizon League. It features McCallum's son, Ray McCallum Jr., a highly touted 2011 recruit who spurned more high-profile offers to play for his dad.
It was also meant to feature Eli Holman, a former Indiana recruit who left the school after Tom Crean replaced an NCAA-show-cause'd (new word!) Kelvin Sampson in 2008. This team may still feature Holman, but as of Tuesday night, it also may not: According to a statement from Detroit athletics director Keri Gaither, Holman has been placed on indefinite leave while he handles "personal matters."
"We have been working with Eli Holman for some time to assist him in addressing his personal matters.
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."
There's no telling what, exactly, Holman is going through, or whether he's "going through" anything in the first place. Often, in the vague language that infests college hoops news releases, "personal matters" is a polite way of saying that a player got in some kind of trouble. That may or may not be the case with Holman; we don't know, and as Gaither says, he deserves his privacy whatever the issue.
This isn't the first time Holman has had a notable personal issue affect his career: In 2008, as Crean tried desperately to keep some of Sampson's former players around in the wake of the former coach's departure, Indiana campus police were dispatched to Assembly Hall to attempt to "calm" Holman after he "threw a potted plant and created a disturbance in the men’s basketball office," the Indiana Daily Student reported. The IU basketball staff called the police because they "saw Holman as a danger to himself," Crean said at the time.
Whether this new issue is of the same phylum is unknown. Nor do we know how long it will keep Holman away from the Titans. But we do know this: In 2011-12, Holman was clearly Detroit's best big man, an athletic 6-foot-10 post presence who ranked in the top 50 nationally in effective field goal percentage, true shooting, and offensive and defensive rebounding rate. (Holman was especially good on the offensive glass, where he grabbed 14.7 percent of his team's available misses. He ranked No. 24 among all Division I players in the statistic.) With Holman, Detroit is much bigger, athletic and more talented than most mid-major teams in the country. Without him? McCallum Jr. is still a breakout candidate, but Detroit as a whole will find it difficult to overcome, say, Butler forwards Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall.
We'll see how long "indefinite" is. Until Holman returns, Detroit's chances of breaking the Butler monopoly -- and earning a rare and much-anticipated trip to the NCAA tournament -- will take a major hit.