EVANS, Ga. (WJBF)– The second annual Eric J. Smalls Memorial Basketball Tournament was today at Greenbriar High School. The event honored Eric Smalls who died in a car crash, along with two of his friends, in Augusta in 2015.
Smalls aspired to play college ball, so all proceeds from this championship go toward a scholarship for a local high school senior who has signed to play college basketball. Smalls’ mom said this event is what keeps her going.
“Eric stopped the phone call, and said ‘Momma, I love you,’ and I said ‘I love you, too.’ Thirty minutes later, I got the call,” Frankie Simon, Smalls’ mom, said.
Simon said her 9-year-old son was on the way to the bowling alley with two friends, 8-year-old John Powell and 9-year-old Quamaine Jones when a pick-up truck crashed into the side of their Corolla, killing the three kids.
“Eric was my world. Eric was my only child. So on June 1, 2015, my life took a turn that I never expected it would take,” Simon said, She said Smalls started playing basketball in Kindergarten, but to him, it was more than just a game.
“My dreams for him and basketball were really his dreams: to help him live out his dreams of playing basketball as far as it could take him,” Simons said.
She said now, Smalls’ dream of playing college ball is lived out through other local high school students. It all started one year ago when Smalls’ mentor and coach, Corey Warren, headed up the Eric J. Smalls Memorial Tournament.
“The whole idea was to keep Eric’s name going. Usually when someone passes, and the mourning is over, usually only the immediate family members remember the deceased family member,” Warren said.
Simon and Warren believe the six kids critically injured in Friday’s wreck on North Belair Road may have been coming to the tournament. For Simon, the accident hits close to home.
“Regardless who is at fault, when a child is hurt, a parent’s world will stop, and I must say, even the C.S.R.A. Augusta, the entire city stopped. And if we all just uplift children and parents to do the best they can and know how to do for their children, then we know that these things will come to a halt, or at least come to a minimum,” Simon shared.
The Eric J. Smalls Banquet and Tournament is always held during the first week of June. Simon and Warren want the event to live on and eventually award several local seniors with scholarships.
For information on how you can get involved in 2018, contact Corey Warren: firstname.lastname@example.org.