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Syracuse players emphasize community, support for Jim Boeheim

Frank Howard said basketball “brightens up” his coach in this time of tragedy.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Boeheim left practice to his assistants on Thursday but addressed his team. Ultimately, he and Syracuse Athletics decided that he’d return to coach the Syracuse Orange against the Duke Blue Devils three days after the tragic accident that killed Jorge Jimenez on I-690.

Boeheim expressed his devastation after the game, but said he felt an obligation to his players to show up and coach. His team was glad he did.

Tyus Battle woke up on Thursday morning and found out along with everybody else that the lives of two families and an entire community were irreversibly altered.

“It’s just crazy how life is sometimes and it’s just a terrible situation,” Battle said. “I know it was tough for coach, it was tough for us.”

Boeheim returned to coaching on Friday and told them to focus on the game. He said they did everything they could following Frank Howard’s desire to win the game for him, falling short 75-65.

“Basketball is something we enjoy,” Frank Howard said. “So this is something that brightens him up and brightens us up as well. So we can get in the gym, get on the court, focus on basketball and get lost in your thoughts. It might help you a little bit.”

Off the court, Howard said the team emphasized checking on each other, asking if everybody’s okay, and then asserted that being the best basketball players they can be is how they’ll support Boeheim going forward.

Buddy Boeheim witnessed the tragedy from the position of both teammate and son. He preferred to talk about the game over the tragedy, but said the outpouring of community support struck him.

“Life goes on,” he said. “You gotta just focus on what you can control and we’re going to be there for him and he’s going to be there for us. We just have to keep focusing on the season and just focus on the games coming up.”

The Orange spoke about staying together as a team going forward, focusing on basketball, emphasizing Boeheim’s strength and appreciating Syracuse’s support for both Boeheim and the Jimenez family. A GoFundMe is currently raising money for Jorge Jimenez’ funeral.

“In times like this, the community has to come together the most,” Battle said. “I think that’s what we try to do is stick together as a team and as a Syracuse family and try to support the family that that happened to and coach at the same time.”