When basketball becomes irrelevant

By Lucas Deal

There are moments in our lives when we are forced to deal with death and mortality. For most people, these moments are few and far between, yet their significance often still causes a period of deep thought and reflection for all those involved.

Sometimes, these moments come from the death of a loved one. Sometimes, they are simply a brush with one’s own invincibility. Either way, a moment of reflection after a tragedy can often serve as a valuable lesson for our lives and how we shall continue to live.

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These moments force us to take a step back and really look at our lives and what we’ve done. They force us to deal with a facet of life none of us want to face, and they make us question what we can do as people to safely avoid our own tragedies to live a long, healthy and happy life.

They provide us with a moment of clarity, an epiphany if you will. They give us a chance for reflection, but most importantly, they give us the chance to change.

Around 11:20 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 12, Illinois basketball players Jamar Smith and Brian Carlwell were involved in a single-car accident when the vehicle Smith was driving crossed the center line and crashed into a tree along First Street in southern Champaign.

Both Smith and Carlwell suffered concussions in the horrific accident, yet Smith was somehow able to drive his damaged car back to his apartment in Savoy.

Shortly after midnight, local police and Emergency Medical Staff descended on Smith’s car, where an unconscious Carlwell was found lying in the passenger’s seat. It was at this time that several EMS staff members removed Carlwell from the car and transported him to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.

Carlwell spent two days in intensive care before being moved to his own room on Wednesday. He is expected to be released from the hospital this weekend and should make a full recovery.

While this is obviously good news, questions have crept throughout Illinois and the college basketball world since the accident.

The most common question to be posed: After he somehow drove back to his apartment, what happened to Smith?

At first, it was reported that Smith called 9-1-1 from his apartment to come and help Carlwell, but that information has since been rescinded. The actual 9-1-1 call came from another Savoy resident who found the damaged car.

Other reports have said Smith aided the EMS in helping rescue Carlwell, while some reports said he was not present at all when Carlwell was removed from the damaged car.

As of right now, no one other than Smith really knows.

However, with Smith refusing to comment on the accident and currently back in Peoria recovering with his family, rumors are swirling about his actions leading up to and following the wreck.

Some have insinuated that Smith’s actions after the accident can be attributed to his concussion, but others have stated that since his concussion was minor, it does not make his shady behavior acceptable.

And while improper lane usage is the only charge Smith is currently facing, there is speculation that he could receive felony charges for leaving the scene of the accident.

Alcohol has also been brought up as a possible factor for the accident and toxicology tests of Smith’s blood are expected in four to six weeks.

For Smith, this appears to be one of those moments of reflection and healing.

Whether his actions were justified or not will be proven in time, but the mental strain the accident has had on the 19-year-old could hold a much larger burden. If charged with either one of the two possible felonies, Smith could lose his scholarship and place on the team.

And even if the rumors surrounding Smith’s actions turn out to be just that – rumors – the psychological effects they have had on his confidence could still be enough for him to turn his back on school.

I think Smith needs to decide, right now, how he wants to handle this. He can let the mental weight of the accident drag him down and destroy his psyche. Or, he can come out fighting.

If he did something, anything, wrong, he can step up and admit it. He can apologize. Carlwell is going to recover, so Smith has the ability to be forgiven – a rare gift in this situation.

Most importantly though, Smith must come to grips with what he did. If he didn’t do anything wrong, then he can’t let Carlwell’s injury hang over him.

But if he did mess up and if he did break the law, he has to be willing to make a change. Thankfully, no one’s life ended Monday night – but it could have. He must understand that and be willing to deal with it.

This is his chance for an epiphany. Let’s hope he takes advantage.

Lucas Deal is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at

[email protected]