Eberlein Drive, a Fraser roadway known locally for a 2016 Christmas Eve sinkhole that devastated the neighborhood, is getting different headlines these days.
The Eberlein Drive team, started in 2014 by residents Jacob Hirschmann and the Oster brothers, Joey and Craigen, is lifting the sinkhole street to the national basketball stage.
The team, comprised of former NBA players and current pros throughout the world, is two wins away from a $2 million prize in The Basketball Tournament, a 5-year-old, winner-take-all event that features 72 teams.
Eberlein Drive, a No. 7 seed, plays in Thursday's semifinals against No. 2 seed Team Fredette at Morgan State University in Baltimore. The game is at 9 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
“Obviously the sinkhole was horrible, but with the team now doing really well, it’s definitely cool now that I can say that I lived on Eberlein Drive,” said Hirschmann, 24, who is now a booster for the team and law school student in Miami.
Families were displaced for weeks, three houses were condemned and Macomb County repaired the massive sinkhole with a $70-million project for the dead-end street near 15 Mile and Hayes roads.
At the home of Denise and Robert Hirschmann on Eberlein Drive on Thursday, neighbors are invited to watch the game and celebrate what could be the culmination of an unlikely dream.
When Jacob Hirschmann and the Oster brothers heard about the new event in 2014, they reached out to everyone they knew on social media to get the needed support to sign up. They then packed up a van and drove to Philadelphia for the inaugural event.
The novices, with a modest hoops background consisting largely of pickup games in the Osters backyard on Eberlein, got destroyed in the single-elimination event by former pros like Smush Parker, who briefly played with the Detroit Pistons in 2004-05, and Luke Bonner, who sent Hirschmann to the hospital with an elbow injury after dunking on him.
“We got destroyed,” Hirschmann said of the team, which Sports Illustrated called “the lost cause of the tournament” in a light-hearted piece.
Undeterred and emboldened by the brush with fame, Hirschmann and new partner Matt Mitchell, of Indiana, reached out to players through social media and kept adding talent through the years, including former NBA players Jamaal Tinsley and Von Wafer.
The internet chops also helped defray costs, as they won a Draft Kings sponsorship in 2015 and gained entry in 2016 by raising the most money for charity.
In 2017, the Eberlein Drive name took a hiatus as the team partnered with actor Michael Rapaport, using his Stickmen brand and winning its first tournament game.
It’s back to Eberlein Drive this year, and the team avenged last season’s loss to Team Challenge ALS last weekend in Atlanta, and also beat a team of St. Mary’s alums to advance to Baltimore.
“The first year we got 300 people to sign up to support the team and now it takes well over 1,000 to enter,” Hirschmann said. “Back then and now, I probably sent all these people in my life one Facebook message every year. It’s so stressful and annoying. It’s hundreds of people I reached out to, but I’m so thankful for these people that they take the two minutes to do it every year.”
This year’s team features Lou Amundson, who played 10 NBA seasons for 10 teams; 2012 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion Jeremy Evans; and Willie Reed, who played in three games for the Pistons this past season after being acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Blake Griffin trade.
Two more wins would net each of the players $177,500 of the winnings, Mitchell said.
Eberlein Drive first has to get past Team Fredette, which features former BYU All-American Jimmer Fredette, in Thursday’s second semifinal. Three-time defending champion Overseas Elite plays the Golden Eagles, a team of Marquette alums, in the first semifinal. The $2 million championship game is 9 p.m. Friday.
Hirschmann is flying to Baltimore on Thursday morning and Joey Oster, who along with brother Craigen played at Madison Heights Bishop Foley High, is driving to Maryland to sit on the bench and witness a new kind of Eberlein Drive history.
“We joke, if we win this thing, we gotta have a parade down Eberlein Drive,” said Mitchell, who has not yet visited the Fraser namesake.
Added Hirschmann: “People around the Detroit area likely know that Eberlein Drive is the sinkhole street, but I’m hoping now people will read these stories and see us on TV and know that Eberlein Drive has a good connotation.
“The team that is named after it could win $2 million on ESPN.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.
The Basketball Tournament
Semifinals: Overseas Elite vs. Golden Eagles, 7 p.m. Thursday; Eberlein Drive vs. Team Fredette, 9 p.m. Thursday
Final: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Morgan State University, Baltimore