AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The family of a young boy killed in a car crash found a way to spread his memory across the country.
Henry Brown heads to college this fall.
“Belmont Abbey in Charlotte North Carolina,” he said.
And he’s taking Eric Smalls with him. Actually, the little guy will go in spirit though. He lost his life in a car crash at 9 years old.
“When I found out about the accident we were at a practice and we were doing a fundraiser,” said his mom, Frankie Simon.
Simon said it’s fitting that the $1,000 scholarship in her son’s name pays some of Brown’s college expenses through a United Elite basketball tournament.
“Basketball was the sport he had narrowed down, even at the age of nine,” Small’s mother told me. “We didn’t do soccer or football. He didn’t like any of those. We tried them, but basketball is what stuck with us.”
“Uh Oh! Team Power’s in the building!” an AAU team shouted.
Second through 12th grade teams hit the court to become champions all in the name of little Eric’s favorite sport. Team Power is one of the winning teams from the 2016 tournament.
Coach Derrick Shine said, “Some of my boys knew the kid and some of them didn’t. They wanted to play in it and they were happy to have to opportunity to play in the tournament.”
Simon along with her son’s AAU coach want to give more money to more deserving students in Eric’s honor.
United Elite Director and Head Coach Corey Warren explained how it all works.
“It gives the high school students something to look forward to and it keeps his name in basketball.”
A name well-remembered for his high energy and special ways of scoring. Coach Warren remembers a time when Smalls left some footprints on her heart.
“Augusta Christian gym and during that game he hit two threes and two jumpers back to back to back and then he just went away. I guess he was saying my job is done. You guys take it from there,” he said.
And with each pass that’s what Zhian Briggs is doing.
“He was my friend so I had one mission and that was to win that championship for him,” Briggs said.
And others who even helped make Smalls the player he became chimed in too.
“I’m small and he was pretty small too. Normally, people tease and take advantage of that so I always told him don’t let nobody push you around,” said United Elite player AJ Harper.
While the boys spend a year learning new skills that will hopefully send more students off to college with Eric in spirit, Simon spends that same year remembering her son as if he is playing too.
“Coach said, Ms. Simon you had one child, now you have 39,” she said while laughing.
United Elite plans to expand the tournament, with hopes of adding more players and facilities. That will take place during the first weekend of June 2017.