Everybody in the NBA wants top get their hands on the next Hassan Whiteside — a late bloomer who been a force in the middle for the Miami Heat. The guy who may fit that profile is Eli Holman, formerly of the University of Detroit and now playing in China where he finished one assist shy of a triple-double in Game 1 of his team’s first-round playoff series.
There are some remarkable similarities between their stories. But whether Holman jumps to the NBA after the Chinese playoffs or remains overseas remains an open question. For now, I have heard that there are three NBA teams interested, but that number should grow after Holman’s near triple-double of 15 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists in Game 1 of the Guangsha-Liaonang series.
Holman is 25, like Whiteside, and other similarities are remarkably coincidental, to say the least.
Whiteside played division two in China last year. Holman is playing for the seventh-seeded Guangsha Lions, and he’ll be free to sign wherever he wants after his team, trailing 1-0, is eliminated. Holman currently has a nice offer in Lebanon. (Whiteside played in Lebanon last year.) Eli played summer league for Toronto and Miami last July, and he was teammates with Whiteside on the Raptors’ summer league team in Toronto.
Whiteside, averaging 9.8 points and a team leading 8.3 rebounds and 2.48 blocks, has transformed his body over the past few years. ‘
So has Holman, who was always big and strong but is now leaner and moves better than he did in the past. The nitpickers out there will note that Holman is 6-foot-9 and thus does not have the size to be an NBA center (although he is the same size as Tarik Black of the Lakers, who is generously listed at 6′ 11″). But Holman’s wingspan is 7’ 4″, so the tools to develop into a productive shot-blocker are there.
Holman, who shot a league-leading 68 percent on 2-pointers, had an offensive rebound percentage that was No. 1 in China this year at 18.4 percent. There was a big dropoff to ex-NBA players Slava Kravtsov at 15.4 percent, Hamed Haddadi at 13.8 percent, Jeremy Tyler at 13.4 percent, and Shelden Williams at 13.1 percent. Andray Blatche was 28th at 10.5 percent.
A look at Holman’s numbers compared to other foreigners playing in the CBA:
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.