Forty minutes from $2 million last year, Eberlein Drive is back for more.
A smorgasbord of basketball players from all over the country are once again playing this summer, not just for their share of $2 million but also for a small community in Fraser.
Started by Fraser native Jacob Hirschmann and friends on the east side, Eberlein Drive will play in The Basketball Tournament, looking to finish the job.
Last year, the team of ex-NBA players and overseas pros lost to the Overseas Elite in the finals 70-58, giving the opponents their fourth straight title.
Hirschmann said many of the same Eberlein Drive players are ready for a repeat run in the 64-team event.
“They were definitely hungry,” Hirschmann said. “You try to so much not think about the $2 million prize and how close you were to it, but when you’re literally in the arena, and in 40 minutes, if we win this game, I’m going to come out with this amount of money. It’s hard not to.
“A lot of the guys, they were super, super hurt after the loss, as we were.”
The tournament begins Friday but Eberlein Drive’s regional Salt Lake City is not until next weekend, where the top-seeded team will play a single-elimination tournament with seven other teams. Eberlein Drive plays Team Utah, made up of players with Utah ties, on July 25.
The eight regional champions will meet Aug. 1-6 in Chicago for another three-round tournament and the right to split $2 million.
Eberlein Drive started when the event started in 2014, and Eberlein Drive started as a bit of a gag when Hirschmann and his childhood neighborhood friends, Joey and Craigen Oster, signed up to play as novices against high-level basketball competition.
The results were as expected with Hirschmann ending up in the hospital with an elbow injury after former NBA player Luke Bonner dunked on him.
Now a 25-year-old law school student in Miami, Hirschmann has kept the brand going in a booster role, using social media to attract pro players to carry on the name of the street, previously known mostly for a 2016 Christmas Eve sinkhole that displaced families for weeks.
Hirschmann’s folks and the Oster family still live on the street near 15 Mile and Hayes roads.
Pro players such as Jerome Randle, Donald Sloan and James Michael McAdoo, a former North Carolina standout, return to Eberlein Drive this summer.
“These guys know what it takes to win this thing,” Hirschmann said. “Single-elimination is no joke. It’s going to be tough, as always, but having a good sense of continuity is a big thing for us, so we think we did a good job with that.”
New to the team is former Oakland University standout Keith Benson, who played three NBA games with Golden State in 2011-12 and has bounced around the world in professional leagues since then.
“We just reached out on Instagram (direct message),” Hirschmann said. “We were choosing between a few guys at the end of the day, and we thought another big would be good.”
Eberlein Drive is coached by David Nurse, an NBA shooting coach and also the nephew of NBA champion Nick Nurse, coach of the Toronto Raptors.
On Eberlein Drive, they’ll be watching and celebrating, with a neighborhood watch party at Denise and Robert Hirschmann’s house, and a potential drive down to Chicago for the finals, Jacob Hirschmann said.
The tournament also features former Pistons Dwight Buycks (Golden Eagles), Austin Daye (Team Challenge ALS), Josh Harrellson (Bluegrass Boys), Willie Reed (Loyalty Is Love) and Terrico White (Armored Athlete). Andre Drummond is the head coach of the Tampa 20/20 team.
Other teams are represented by players from Detroit, and schools such as Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Ferris State, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwood, Oakland, Oakland Community College, and also the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA G League.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.
The Basketball Tournament
What: Winner-take-all open basketball tournament for $2 million
When: Regionals start Friday; championship week, Aug. 1-6, Wintrust Arena, Chicago
Locals: Armored Athlete: Terrico White, Detroit Pistons; Big X: Head coach Andrew Dakich, Michigan; Stu Douglass, Michigan; assistant coach Duncan Robinson, Michigan; Bluegrass Boys: Josh Harrellson, Detroit Pistons; Derek Willis, Grand Rapids Drive; Boeheim’s Army: Jordan Crawford, Detroit; Eric Devendorf, Detroit Mercy assistant coach; D2: Todd Withers, Grand Rapids Drive; Eberlein Drive: Founder Jacob Hirschmann, Fraser; Keith Benson, Oakland; Golden Eagles: Dwight Buycks, Detroit Pistons; Jackson (Tenn.) Underdogs: Odgra Bobo, Oakland CC; Kohl Blooded: Jarred Axon, Eastern Michigan; Loyalty Is Love: Willie Reed, Detroit Pistons; Power of the Paw: Booster Elden Campbell, Detroit Pistons; booster Dale Davis, Detroit Pistons; Sideline Cancer: Marcus Keene, Central Michigan; Tampa 20/20: Head coach Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons; Team Challenge ALS: Austin Daye, Detroit Pistons; Team DRC: Kenny Brown, Ferris State; Speedy Smith, Grand Rapids Drive; Team Fredette: Ra’Shad James, Northwood; The Region: Branden Dawson, Michigan State