Emmitt Holt: Have to be better

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- For Emmitt Holt, missing basketball games has been hard; dealing with his guilt has been even harder.

The Indiana freshman was driving a car that struck teammate Devin Davis on Nov. 1, sending the sophomore to the hospital with a serious head injury. Although police have said Holt was not responsible for striking Davis, he was charged with illegal consumption. His blood alcohol content was just .025, below the legal limit for driving, but Holt is only 18.

Suspended four games because of the underage drinking, he will play for Indiana for the first time Thursday night when the Hoosiers host No. 22 SMU.

"I couldn't say I'm sorry enough to everybody. ... Being a teenager, a lot of teenagers think they're invincible, but I learned quickly that's not the case." Emmitt Holt

"It was just an awful night, to be honest, that probably changed my life forever," Holt said in an exclusive interview with ESPN.com. "It did actually change my life forever. When I went to visit him in the hospital for the first time it was like ... it was ... crazy.

"Then when we talked the first time, I don't want to go into great detail, but he was trying to comfort me, telling me it wasn't my fault. But deep down, I'll always feel like it was my fault. It was one of those moments where you realize you have to be a better person."

Clearly still shaken, Holt paused frequently for deep breaths and spoke quietly during a 15-minute interview following Indiana's practice Wednesday. He said he is emotionally and mentally prepared to play basketball but admitted the past few weeks have been the toughest and longest of his life, weeks in which he said he has been forced to grow up quickly.

"I couldn't say I'm sorry enough to everybody," he said. "I've learned that you have to make the right decisions, think before you act. Being a teenager, a lot of teenagers think they're invincible, but I learned quickly that's not the case."

Holt dropped off Davis in a parking lot outside the Indiana University football stadium around 12:45 a.m. Nov. 1. He was driving away when, according to Sgt. Jeffrey Canada of the Bloomington Police Department, "for unknown reasons, Mr. Davis came into the roadway and struck the side of the vehicle near the front passenger windshield."

Davis was unconscious when police arrived, and Hoosiers coach Tom Crean later said Davis suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Davis was released from a rehabilitation facility Wednesday and now will begin extensive outpatient therapy.

Holt visited Davis almost daily while he was in a Bloomington hospital and texted with him frequently while he was in the rehab facility. He said he has been amazed by Davis' steady progress and that Davis' improvement has boosted him as well.

He also has leaned heavily on his teammates and coaching staff, and credits them for helping him get through.

In addition, Holt has gotten a lift from an unusual source -- Davis' parents.

Holt had met Tiffany, Devin Sr. and Elaine Davis (Davis' parents divorced, and his father has remarried) briefly before but has gotten to know them well since the accident. Their strength and kindness have been a source of comfort for him, Holt said.

"They said the same thing as Coach -- keep your head up, it's not your fault," Holt said. "When they said that, I ... I don't know. I just kept saying I'm sorry."

Basketball, and the normalcy of it, has helped immensely, and Holt is anxious to get back on the court. He doubts he'll be emotional in Thursday's game but said he has a greater appreciation for everything.

He also thinks the accident, as well as the additional suspensions of teammates Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams for failed drug tests, has brought the Hoosiers closer together.

"The whole team, we're not just playing for us," he said. "We're playing for Devin, too."