Clippers winning for Epps

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

As the Christmas season wound down, Frankie Epps was looking forward to helping the Lake Kennedy Clippers start off 2004 with a bang. Little did the Lakeland High School senior know that his biggest inspiration of the team would come from the Obici Hospital Intensive Care Unit.

On the night of Dec. 27, Epps, a three-year veteran of the recreational league basketball squad, began to feel some pain in his jaw. Not wanting to wait until the Monday after to see his dentist, he asked his mother to take him to Obici.


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&uot;I went to the emergency room, and we went into the back and took some X-rays,&uot; he recalls. &uot;They gave me some medicine for it. I don’t remember too much about the next few days.&uot;

Why? Because what was originally thought to be a tooth abscess spread through his body, forcing Epps into a coma. He spent the final days of 2003 in the ICU. What exactly caused the coma is undetermined.

Meanwhile, the news was starting to widen among Epps’ friends and coach. &uot;As soon as my mom came home from church on Dec. 28, I found out that Frankie was in the ICU,&uot; said teammate Jeffrey Cook, one of Epps’ best friends. &uot;I thought he’d been in a car accident until I went up there and talked to his brother Dominique.&uot;

Because only family members were allowed to see Epps at the time, Cook could only sit in the waiting room and pray for his pal’s recovery. He soon got some company.

Dominique called coach Michael White on Dec. 29, and the coach went to see one of his top players when he awoke the next day. &uot;He was smiling,&uot; White said. &uot;The main thing was that the first thing he said was that he loved basketball. The thing that got me was that a person in the situation he was in could be in good spirits. I told him that if he hung in there, listened to his doctors and kept the faith, he would be OK.&uot;

Meanwhile, the team got started without one of its leaders. The Clippers won their first three games handily, but then headed to Virginia Beach to battle the Green Run High School junior varsity team.

&uot;We were playing every game for Frankie,&uot; said Cook. &uot;Before we went out there, we talked about him, and every time we took a break or called timeout, we yelled out, ‘Epps!’ before we went back on the court.&uot;

It paid off; Arthur Wellons swished a pair of free throws with 38 seconds to go to ice a 36-34 victory. Cook added nine points in the win. The team will attempt to continue its winning ways against the Norfolk Seahawks Saturday at Cradock in Portsmouth.

&uot;He’s a floor general,&uot; White said of Epps. &uot;He learned the game; he learned to be patient with the ball. Even if he has a shot in the open lane, he might give it up if he has an open pass. He’s just a natural leader, and we all hope he can come back and be the vocal leader than he was before.&uot;

Epps can’t wait. &uot;I’ve been in pain because I can’t play yet,&uot; he said. &uot;I love basketball; that’s my life out there. When I get back there in a few weeks, I’m going to help the team back out.&uot;