University of Lethbridge rallies around recovering teammate Watkins

Posted on: September 26th, 2018 by
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LETHBRIDGE – A University of Lethbridge basketball player is showing signs of improvement, more than two months after being critically injured in a single car crash.

Brent Watkins was driving from his California home to Lethbridge on July 5 when his car left the road in Montana, rolling in the ditch.  He is now out of a medically-induced coma and continuing his recovery from a brain injury at a long-term rehab facility in California.

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“He’s just starting to talk,” said Pronghorns men’s basketball coach Mike Hansen. “One word sentences, those kind of things, but, it’s definitely still him. He walked for the first time with the assistance of a walker. He’s working hard in his physio, working hard with a speech therapist.”

Watkins was about to enter his third campaign as a Pronghorn and his final season of post-secondary eligibility. Now his long-term goal is to get back to living a normal life.

Some teammates have had the chance to visit him and can see small changes in his condition.

“He definitely knew we were there and we made jokes with him about the team and he laughed,” said ‘Horns guard Jared Baker. “And, it was really a cool experience to be able to see his improvement in a short time.”

With a new season looming, the Pronghorns focus needs to be on the court. But, they’re making sure to keep Watkins in their thoughts.

“I started growing this beard when he went into the hospital and I said I’ll shave it when he gets out,” said Hansen. “But, it’s also that every day I look in the mirror and think of him and that sets my focus.”

Medical costs for the Watkins family have been sky-high. A GoFundMe page started in his honour has already raised more than $32,000, but with a long road ahead, the ‘Horns are stepping up their fundraising efforts even more.

On Friday, September 25, the U of L will host Red Deer College for a game. Tickets are $10, with all proceeds going to the Watkins family. A silent auction will also help to raise money.

To the Pronghorns players, the gravity of the game extends beyond just fundraising.

“It’s going to be awesome as a team, for one game, to put together our emotions and play for Brent,” said Baker. “This literal game is going to be for Brent.”

The game begins at 7 p.m. Friday at the U of L’s First Choice Savings Centre.

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