After a devastating accident, OHS sophomore Reggie Townsend primes for his big comeback
Nov. 7, 2018: a day that was an expectedly exciting one for sophomore Reggie Townsend. The perennial star for the 2021 basketball team at Oswego High School, Townsend itched to get through the sluggish school day and onto the basketball court. Basketball, Townsend’s love, circled his mind throughout the day, a day in which the sophomore basketball squad was set to be assembled.
At the sound of the eighth period bell, Townsend readied for essentially the first day of the new season. However, even kids like Townsend – someone who exercises as much control over his own life as the ball on the court – don’t always get to write their own narratives. In Townsend’s case, fate wrote the next chapter of his story in a matter of seconds. Reggie Townsend was struck by a car.
It happened when Townsend was headed to the Subway across the street with his basketball teammates and close friends for an energy boost before the day on the hardwood. They were horrified at what they saw.
“I think everybody was scared,” sophomore Brandon Gipson, Townsend’s teammate and best friend, says of the people who witnessed it. “Everybody feared if he was going to be OK or not.”
Paramedics arrived at the troubling scene immediately and took Townsend to Rush Copley Medical Center, where he was then transferred to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Chicago that night. Townsend’s family and friends knew little of his prognosis, only hoping and praying that they would not hear the worst.
They weren’t the only ones praying. The entire town of Oswego, shook from the news, demonstrated an outpour of prayers and support.
“[The support] meant a lot to me because it showed that the city that I come from actually cares about me,” Townsend says. “There’s a lot of love around the city for me.”
The prayers seemed to work. In spite of a fractured leg and fractured ribs, doctors at Lutheran General were able to deliver wonderful news: he was alive. Although incredibly relieved that he made it, Townsend’s sustained injuries left him with a lot of virtually unanswerable questions.
“What’s going to be the outcome?” and “what’s my next step?” were just a couple of the multitude of questions Townsend pondered as he laid in his hospital bed.
Townsend was unfortunately not the only one racked with fear and confusion. His “second family,” the sophomore Panthers basketball team, dealt with their own share of emotional struggle.
“At first it was tough on all of us, including myself,” sophomore coach Tim Taviani says on the accident. “Having some of the teammates actually see what actually happened…was very tough on a lot of the kids.”
The Panthers attempted to turn what was a new hole on their roster into somewhat of a positive, with guards Gipson and Brady Peterlin assuming leadership roles. The loss was apparent at times on the basketball floor, with the squad accounting for just eight wins. However, the presence of Townsend on the Panthers’ minds was quite vivid.
“I am very proud of the team the way they responded, the way everybody was very positive, and [how] everybody worked hard,” Taviani comments. “Everybody kind of came together and rall[ied] behind each other to kind of put a good season together for Reggie.”
Meanwhile, Townsend struggled with such a rapid change in his life. The game he loves so dearly was swept away in the blink of an eye, as his broken leg practically immobilized him.
“Missing basketball, missing my whole sophomore year really hurt me,” Townsend says. “There [were] many nights that I cried.”
Once Townsend was discharged from the hospital after a long process, he had a decision to make. He could choose to remain at his home, away from the pain of watching the sport he loves be played by others with good fortune, a natural reaction for any 16 year old going through that type of trauma. On the other hand, he could decide to be there with his teammates, providing both support and insight. Townsend is cut from a different cloth. He chose the selfless option.
“I went to many games and as much I [could],” he says. “I gave the other players, my teammates advice on what to do and my thoughts on where I could see them improve.”
These acts of leadership did not go unnoticed. From taking (and making) shots at the games from his walking boot, to consistently energizing the bench, Reggie’s attendance was a huge source of inspiration for Coach Taviani’s squad, and the community as a whole.
“When we had Reggie on the bench, I thought there was more enthusiasm on the bench,” Taviani says. “Here’s a player that is supporting us, and we support him, even though he can’t play right now.”
Reggie plans to harness this support, as well as his love and longing for the game of basketball to put together a both impressive and motivating junior campaign. His exuberance for simply having the opportunity to put on a uniform again is quite visible, still six months away from the season’s beginning.
“I’m very excited because I feel like I have a lot to prove to everyone, especially the coaches and the Oswego family and my peers.”
Most would be content to just hit the floor again, but Townsend’s drive is unlike most other high school basketball players. He wants to put on a show at OHS, and it starts with the work in the summertime.
On the preparation for his first year as a varsity player, Townsend describes “it’s just going to be a lot of training, not having an average summer like a normal teenager would.” He additionally plans to “[hit] the weight room to get weight back that [he] missed from playing a whole year, staying after to get extra shots up.”
The training regimen that Townsend strives for is just one reflection of his tenacity, especially following what was a near-death experience. He will have his family, teammates and city behind him, as he nears the journey to a not-so-average summer and not-so-average season. But hey, he’s a not-so-average player.
“My mother always said pain is something that defines people, but no pain lasts forever,” Townsend says. “The farther this pain sets me back, the farther I will excel on the court.”