NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Even as the Stephen F. Austin State University men’s basketball team prepares for a fundraising game on Wednesday, the death of an iconic athlete still weighed on everyone’s mind.
Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday alongside his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people, according to ESPN.
Athletes and coaches alike took a moment Monday to reflect on Bryant’s passion for the sport they love.
“To see that happen, not only to Kobe but his daughter as well, that hit a special place in my heart,” said John Comeaux, guard for the SFA Lumberjacks. "Growing up, watching Kobe... being one of the first of my favorite players, as well. I just have prayers for him, the families that lost their loved ones... and just prayers for everyone.
“Kobe built a basketball legacy for kids to go hard. Kobe never took a day off; there wasn’t never a day when Kobe went half-effort, he went hard every day,” said Cameron Johnson. guard for the SFA Lumberjacks.
“It hurt [other professional players] like it hurt us, because they had to play against him, and they mirrored his game.”
SFA coach Mark Kellogg said Bryant’s impact was felt off of the court, as well. Bryant was active in watching and helping his daughter craft her skills in the game of basketball, which Kellogg said extended to youth programs, even as far as the WNBA.
“It has changed, it’s changing our game. I feel like it’s changing because of our Kobes and Kevin Durants and those types of guys,” Kellogg said during a news conference Monday. “A lot of us -- myself included -- have daughters that play, and we want to give them an opportunity just like the guys have opportunities.”
The Lumberjacks will face Abilene Christian College on Wednesday, Jan. 29 in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer game. The game tips-off at 7:30 p.m.