By Jessica Hoover
Following a pair of losses in early January, the Hamilton Southeastern boys varsity basketball team was running some intense drills during practice to get on the winning track.
Midway through the Jan. 10 practice, senior Josh Fugate collided with another teammate, who fell on top of him, causing a T11 vertebra fracture in Fugate’s spine. His parents, Dan and Susie Fugate, were notified by phone and immediately rushed to his side.
“When I realized how severe it was, my first question was, ‘Did he have feeling in his legs?’” Susie said. “We know some other kids that have been injured, and they have lifelong ramifications. I was just really concerned about him not being able to walk.”
Josh was in severe pain. To get him onto the stretcher, paramedics had to give him seven doses of a heavy narcotic. He was admitted to St. Vincent Hospital on 86th Street and, despite the severity, doctors told him he was very lucky, that it could have been a lot worse. Initially, doctors weren’t sure if he would walk again, but after a couple days in the hospital, he was released and was able to wear a brace.
The day of Jan. 10 had already been stressful for the Fugates because Josh’s brother, Jake, had his tonsils removed that morning. The family refrigerator also broke down. Despite the bad luck, Josh said he is very grateful for the outpouring of support from his friends, family, school, team and community.
“I want to specifically thank my three best friends, Jakob, Reed and Trent, and also my girlfriend, Sabrina,” Josh said. “They really stepped up and were there for me when I really needed the outside support. They’re really keeping me positive and keeping my smile going and keeping me happy. The support from friends has really been more than I’ve ever imagined.”
Josh said HSE teachers and staff also have been accommodating. He wasn’t able to go back to school for three weeks, and even now is only able to take one class per day, but he is still on track to graduate in May with an honors diploma.
Teammates supported him by visiting him at the hospital. Some even cooked dinners for the Fugate family during their difficult time. Even while Josh was injured, he continued to go to home games to cheer his teammates on. Inspired by his dedication, HSE head coach Brian Satterfield planned a special recognition for Josh on Senior Night Feb. 16. Satterfield contacted the opposite team’s head coach, Steve Lynch from Brownsburg High School, to ask if he would let Josh score the first two points of the game, and Lynch said he was more than willing to do it.
“(At Senior Night) they positioned Josh underneath HSE’s basket, and they allowed one of Josh’s senior teammates to pass it to another senior teammate and then pass the ball to Josh and allow him to score,” Dan said. “It was all orchestrated, choreographed, set up, and they left it wide open with no one on the defense. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place after the whole event happened. It was very emotional. When he scored the basket, he got a standing ovation.”
Josh said he was grateful to both coaches and teams for coming together to make his Senior Night special by including him in the game.
“Having the support of my coaches and teammates and people that care about me, it really said a lot about HSE basketball and the character of the team and coaches,” Josh said.
Although surgery is still a possibility, Josh is expected to make a full recovery. He plans to attend Indiana University but won’t play basketball.
“Once upon a time, (basketball) was something I wanted to do in college,” Josh said. “College gets harder with studying, and basketball gets more intense, and I feel like it would be hard to juggle the two at the same time. I feel like I would be happier just being a student. My injury kind of put everything in perspective for me, and it grounded me a lot and made me realize that basketball isn’t everything. I’m grateful that I can still walk. It’s been fun, though, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”