Southern Indiana Community Remembers Fallen Eagle Jeron Lewis

Cole ClaybournCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2010

EVANSVILLE, Ind.—With modern technology, fans are able to know what athletes are thinking more than ever before.

Just hours before the No. 5 Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles tipped off against rival and No. 10 Kentucky Wesleyan on Thursday night, Southern Indiana forward Jeron Lewis' Facebook status read, "Today is a good day so I'm feeling like going to Kentucky Wesleyan and coming back with a victory and leaving it all out there."

Lewis did just that.

With just over four minutes left to play, Lewis collapsed to the floor where he lay motionless for nearly 30 minutes, after which he was taken off the court on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital. 

Paramedics didn't arrive until nearly 20 minutes after the incident occurred.

Southern Indiana Assistant Athletics Director Jay Newton said there is no policy established by the NCAA that requires paramedics to be on site during athletic events.

Unaware of the severity of Lewis' condition, the Screaming Eagles fought off the Panthers of Kentucky Wesleyan and came away with a 74-69 win.

"To be honest, we played the rest of the game with Jeron on our mind," first-year head coach Rodney Watson said in a press conference Friday. "This is something that's bigger than basketball."

Teammates, coaches, fans, and members of the Southern Indiana community gathered at the PAC Arena on USI's campus to remember their fallen teammate.

"We lost our personality," Watson said. "Sometimes he talked too much in practice, and yet you were so happy he did. He kept us loose. If you ever saw this team smiling, it was probably because of something Jeron said."

In Division II basketball, the rivalry between Southern Indiana and Kentucky Wesleyan is comparable to Duke and North Carolina, or Indiana and Purdue. 

But Kentucky Wesleyan fans have decided to put all of that aside and are encouraging fans to wear Southern Indiana red to their game Saturday night in remembrance of Lewis.

Still, after it all, there's some good that's coming out of this story.

Lewis missed two games in December to witness the birth of his first son, Jamel, and Southern Indiana President Linda Bennett said at Friday's press conference that the school is partnering with Old National Bank to establish a trust fund for Lewis' 1-month-old child. 

Watson said the team has cancelled its next two games against Quincy and Drury, and said the team would take some time to be around each other and come together as a team in order to cope with Lewis' death before focusing on basketball again.


Photo Courtesy Denny Simmons, Evansville Courier & Press

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