A story of faith, strength

In spite of obstacles, ‘Hoovey’ never gave up on his basketball dream

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“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

—Philippians 4:13

Eric “Hoovey” Elliott shared his story of faith and healing for the members of the First Christian Church’s Disciple Men and their guests Tuesday, April 17.

A gifted athlete with a dream of playing college basketball, Elliott’s world came crashing in on him on Jan. 3, 1999, when his double vision, terrible headaches and other symptoms resulted in a trip to the ER in Bloomington — about 10 miles from the family farm.

The problem — besides Elliott’s worsening pain and condition — was the blizzard that had already dumped 14-16 inches of snow and forced the family to dig out to reach the road so Jeff Elliott could take his son to the hospital. The truck slid into a ditch and nothing either Elliott did could budge it from the snow bank. 

Elliott said Jeff Elliott called his wife, Ruth, and together they prayed. “My mother had a vision of angels pushing the truck,” he said. When Jeff Elliott tried to get out of the snow bank again, “It felt like we were being pushed by a Mack truck,” Elliott recalled.

At the Bloomington hospital, Elliott immediately was taken for an MRI. “A world-renowned brain surgeon walked by the MRI area and came in to look at my scan,” Elliott said. His father also saw the scan “and immediately broke down crying. He had to tell me I had a brain tumor the size of an orange and that I was going to have surgery the next morning.”

Elliott said doctors weren’t even sure the 14-year-old would make it through the night. 

“In those moments, when you hear news like that, nothing else matters,” Elliott said. “What matters is where you heart is with the Lord.”

The surgery was successful but Elliott said he still had double vision and had to relearn to walk. “The doctors told me I’d never play sports again,” he said.

Imagine, he challenged those present, someone is telling you to quit on your dream. “But we serve an awesome God and  we have Philippians 4:13 that says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he proclaimed. 

So what did Hoovey do? “I grabbed a basketball and went to the barn every night and shot baskets,” he said. Elliott made the high school team as a freshman and didn’t see much playing time.

“I spent the offseason building my body and strength and working on my game,” he said. As a sophomore, he started every game.

Eventually, Elliott bought a pickup truck so he could get back and forth to practice. To pay for it, he delivered newspapers in the country from 1:30-4:30 a.m. seven days a week, returning home to sleep a couple more hours, go to practice and school.

“How did I do that? How did I get through that? Philippians 4:13,” he said.

By his junior year of high school, Elliott had attracted the attention of several colleges who were considering him for a basketball scholarship. As a senior, he took an elbow to the face in a game against Prairie Central, ending his high school career. 

But Hoovey did not give up.

Elliott put together a highlight tape of his play and sent it to colleges for consideration. Sure enough, he received an offer from Carl Sandburg Community College in Galesburg — which he accepted.

It was always Elliott’s dream to make the winning shot in a game and that happened. Down by 1 point with 1.7 seconds remaining, Hoovey put