I lost my dad Scott on October 29, 2021, just before the 2021-22 basketball season began. That morning, I walked out of a test and saw I had missed calls from my mom, my trainer Sean Hardeman, and Coach Kellen all at the same time. I clicked the top name, Coach Kellen, and he told me to come to the practice facility. When I got there, he and Coach Sampson told me I needed to get home because something was happening with my dad. They put me on a flight to Austin, and I’m so glad they did because I got to see him before he passed.
Dad’s obituary said there was always room for more at his table and nothing was ever more true. He was always cooking for my friends, and he would grill for 30-40 people during the summer. Friends always asked for his specialty, bacon mac and cheese. He became a father figure to many of my friends that did not have the same upbringing. Some of my friends were on reduced lunch and never had enough to eat. So dad would send me to school with extra lunches and always invited them over for dinner. He just wanted to help.
I had another friend being recruited by D1 programs to play football, but he was considered a grade risk. So dad started a study hall with him every day and helped him get his grades to the point where he could play college ball. My friends respected that he would hold them accountable and did not sugarcoat anything.
He was a VP at Unisys and managed their global relationship with Dell Technologies. He was a hardworking guy but was always involved in our extracurricular activities, coaching my brother Jake and me in baseball and basketball. He was always athletic and really understood baseball and basketball. My mom Deirdre played basketball in college, which is where they met.
Dad thought highly of Coach Sampson, but he loved Coach Kellen. On my recruiting visit, we both knew UH was the perfect place for me. He sensed the family atmosphere and saw that the coaches loved their players. He saw how the staff held everyone accountable and always did everything to make sure you succeeded. Coach Kellen had recruited me, and dad loved talking to him. He said Coach Kellen would make a great head coach one day.
My dad was always healthy but started having stomach issues in June 2021. He would have a few days where he could not eat much, and his energy level fell off. By late July, he was down 25 pounds and was very weak. We went to Galveston and Kemah as a family right before my fall semester began, and that’s when I noticed he wasn’t himself. He stayed in the room to rest while mom, Jake, and I would walk around and go on the rides.
At the end of August, his GI doctor scheduled a procedure. When he came out of the procedure, dad noticed a pimple on his backside, which mom said looked like a spider bite. It grew to the point that he needed surgery to have it removed. Things started to get worse when he was diagnosed with an infection in his esophagus.
During dad’s time in the hospital, I went to see him. That’s when it hit me that something was really wrong. He was still joking, but he looked different, and he’d dropped more weight. I got pretty emotional seeing him. I was talking to him every day and still texting him regularly, but seeing him made me realize how bad of a shape he was in. The doctors believed there was something wrong with his liver and his kidney. One day they thought one thing, the next day, it was another. He was so weak he could not walk on his own and did not move from the bed.
After 29 days, dad was released from the hospital. Two days later, he went to a blood doctor who ran more tests, and that night, the doctor called my mom and said he had to return to the hospital. He was in liver failure. After a few days, another doctor ran different tests and told us he had a blood infection.
His kidney and liver numbers kept getting worse, and he was jaundiced. He stayed 17 more days, and that’s when I got the three phone calls. When I talked to my mom, she was distraught and told me that the next 24-48 hours were critical. As soon as my flight landed, I went straight to the hospital, and I almost had to walk out because he was so yellow and skinny.
Jake and I were with him for 4-5 hours, but it was hard for him to talk, and when he did, it wasn’t easy to hear. Eventually, it was just me in the room with him, and he told me he had to go. So I walked out to see some family friends in the waiting room while he went to the restroom.
A little bit later, I started walking back to see him when I heard “code blue” coming from his room. I knew that was not good. He was fighting to stay alive, and they brought him back, then brought him back again, but eventually, he passed at 7:14 pm.
The Houston Basketball family was really there for me. They said a prayer for my dad before practice that day, and when they heard the news, everyone reached out and was so helpful. Coach Kellen was checking in every day, and their support was awesome.
The little things are the hardest now. I can’t call to get his advice or talk to him like I did, which was usually 4-5 times a day. When we go to a restaurant, it’s no longer a party of four; it’s a party of three. Also, I’m off at college, and it’s just mom and my brother in the house now.
Through it all, I’ve gotten a lot of great advice. My uncle told me that a lot of people will say I’m the man of the house now. But he reminded me that it was my dad who prepared me for this more than anyone ever could. I know that a lot of kids don’t get that, and I’m thankful he readied me for adverse situations.
One of our grad assistants, Cole Rabedeaux, went through a similar experience when he was my little brother’s age. His dad Jason worked for Coach Sampson for over a decade before he became head coach at UTEP. After Jason had moved on and was coaching in China, he passed away, almost the exact age as my dad. Cole and I had formed a bond even before this, and he’s been with me every step of the way. I know I can call and ask him anything, and he’s probably already dealt with it.
I don’t understand everything that took place in the hospital. I’ll never know, but even in the end, I know my dad tried to prepare me for what was to come. It was only later that I realized his exact last words to me.
“I got to go.”
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