•injured high school basketball star is drawing crosstown rivals closer together, as well as narrowing the 950-mile distance between Columbus and his college of choice in Burlington, Vermont.
Josh Speidel, Columbus North’s all-time scorer in basketball, is the focus of concern near and far since a car accident Sunday hospitalized him in critical but stable condition.
Speidel has been unconscious since the 7 p.m. Sunday accident near Taylorsville, suffering a broken jaw and a skull fracture.
He underwent a medical procedure at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis to relieve pressure on his brain, which has returned to normal pressure levels, his mother Lisa Speidel said.
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The athlete is breathing on his own, with his condition continuing to be stable, she said.
“They were doing several procedures (Tuesday), such as checking his lungs and other neurological tests that were stressful on his body,” Lisa Speidel said. “Doctors have told us that things are going the way we should expect.”
The doctors at Methodist are keeping a monitor on the student’s brain to track activity, she said.
“For us, it’s never moving fast enough,” Lisa Speidel said. “Everything is being evaluated literally hour-by-hour and sometimes minute-by-minute.”
Support network widens
Messages of support have poured into North High School and the University of Vermont, where Josh Speidel signed a letter of intent to play basketball.
University of Vermont players and coaches sent a video to Speidel on YouTube that was being shared throughout Columbus. It had thousands of views as of Tuesday afternoon and can be viewed through Facebook and therepublic.com.
In the video, Vermont team captains and a group of players from Indiana encourage Speidel to stay strong and to let him know they are praying for him.
Those players include Ernie Duncan, who played AAU basketball with Speidel.
The Catamounts ended the video with a team huddle, shouting “joshstrong.”
The phrase has become the support theme for Josh Speidel as friends, classmates, neighbors and well wishers search for ways to support him and his family.
Vermont’s coach, John Becker, was scheduled to arrive today to visit Speidel and his family at Methodist. The Vermont team competed against Maine on Tuesday night on their home court.
Becker told reporters in Vermont that he already considers Speidel part of the Vermont team’s family and that the players had heavy hearts heading into their game Tuesday night.
The video was suggested by assistant coach Kyle Cieplicki, who opens by telling Speidel that the team and coaches wanted him to know they were thinking of him.
Pete Estes, who works in Vermont’s athletics communications program, put the video together, filming the players at the end of practice each saying words of support to Speidel.
“This hit kind of close to home,” Estes said.
As the Catamounts took the floor Tuesday night in Vermont, Columbus North players also were stepping back on their home court for a game but without their go-to senior leader.
Olympians behind North
North’s crosstown rivals, the Columbus East Olympians, were determined not to let Bull Dog players face that situation alone.
Olympian varsity and junior varsity players agreed as a team, along with their coaches, to sit behind the North bench and cheer for the Bull Dogs on Tuesday night.
“Kids can still bring a tear to my eyes with their thoughtfulness,” Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Superintendent John Quick said in an email after he heard about the gesture.
Columbus East boys basketball coach Brent Chitty said he has talked with North coach Jason Speer each day since the accident.
“We have a young man from our community fighting for his life,” Chitty said. “It’s a very tough situation. As a parent, I don’t want to think about what it must be like.”
As a team, the Olympians talk about team expectations of caring for each other, caring for yourself and caring for the school — and in that way, taking care of the community, he said.
“We talked about it, and this is taking care of others,” Chitty said of the East players supporting the Bull Dogs. “We’re praying for the family. We’re praying for Josh.”
Chitty said that the East players knew that Tuesday night was going to be a difficult one for the Bull Dogs when they faced Hamilton Southeastern of Fishers, which had a 6-11 record going into the game.
“The thing we could do is let them know we’re here to support you,” Chitty said of the gesture. “We are going to continue to pray that Josh comes out of this and has every good opportunity in the future.”
Been there, done that
One Columbus East athlete who knows something of what Speidel is going through is East’s Brock Greiwe, who went to Methodist on Tuesday afternoon to show support for his friend.
Greiwe, a standout defensive end on the Olympians football team, was hospitalized — also at Methodist — in December, where he underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor. That surgery prematurely ended his senior football season and his high school football career.
He and Speidel have been friends since they played youth baseball together when they were 12 years old, Greiwe said.
“I want to be there for him,” Greiwe said of his visit, adding that he also texted his friend so he would know that when he wakes up, he can count on Greiwe to help.
“There’s nobody who understands this like I do, after brain surgery. And now that I’m healed, I want to be there for him,” he said.
Greiwe said he is optimistic that Speidel will regain consciousness soon and noted that Speidel is in the same trauma area he was in after surgery.
“They take great care of you,” Greiwe said of Methodist.
Speidel visited Greiwe during his recovery late last year and attended fundraisers to help the Greiwe family with medical expenses.
“Now it’s my turn to be there for him,” Greiwe said.
The Republic Sports Editor Jay Heater contributed to this report.
Community Church of Columbus, 3850 N. Marr Road, is collecting gasoline gift cards for the Speidel family, to alleviate costs of traveling to and from Methodist Hospital. The gift cards may be dropped off at the church between 8 a.m and noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to noon Fridays. For more information, call 812-376-9478.
The Columbus North athletics department is selling $10 T-shirts with the “#joshstrong” logo and Josh Speidel’s number 32 to raise money to defray medical expenses.
University of Vermont has posted a video of support for Columbus North’s Josh Speidel. To view it, go to The Republic’s Facebook page and click on the link to the video. If you are searching on Facebook, type in The Republic newspaper and look for the newspaper logo.