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Killum's father receives victory

The tears once shed here for Earnest Killum have since dried. The healing has begun for those at Oregon State who were touched by the death of a basketball player from a poor neighborhood who never really got to play. Healing is what they speak of now. Life goes on, they say.

Earnest Killum Sr. arrived here Friday night from his home in Atlanta to be a part of "Dad's Weekend," during which students show their fathers around for a couple of days. His son's spirit lives on at the court in Gill Coliseum, in the hallways leading to the locker room, in the hearts of the players and coaches who cared so much for him. They wear his initials on their uniforms on a patch sewn over their hearts: "E.K."

Earnest Killum Sr. wanted to see it all for himself. He had planned to be here any way with his son, whom he last saw Dec. 7, when Oregon St. played at Ohio State.

The last game Killum played in was a month ago against USC at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, and he was to get his first start against UCLA two nights later. But the day after the game against the Trojans, he had a stroke while soaking his legs in a hot tub at the team's hotel in Los Angeles.

When he didn't make it to the bus for a noon workout at UCLA, the team trainer searched for him and found him semiconscious, with one leg still in the tub. Four days later, Killum died. He was 20.

Doctors say they might never know whether the fact that Killum played basketball had anything to do with his death. Autopsy results have not been released.

Saturday afternoon, Earnest Killum Sr. paused in the hallway outside Oregon State's locker room and spoke of his son's death. It was minutes before the Beavers' game against USC was to start.

"I've been fine the whole time," he said. "I'm not trying to boast or anything, but I didn't shed a tear. My son is not suffering. You're never happy with the end result, but more than anything I wouldn't want him to suffer."

It was Killum's second stroke. His first, in July, had kept him out of play for nearly the first two months of this season. Killum underwent removal of a blood clot, but doctors never determined what caused the clots _ a situation that frustrated Killum, who said his love of basketball was second only to his love of God.

In the months after his first stroke, Killum was often asked if basketball was worth dying for. He always seemed to answer the same way. Hours before his second stroke he told Chris Baker of the Los Angeles Times: "It's just my faith that is keeping me going. I'm not worried about nothing happening to me at all."

"When I saw him in Ohio, we talked about everything," his father said. "I told him that his playing could be a matter of life and death, but he said he still wanted to play. He told me that the test results didn't find anything wrong and I told him that if he was well, he would be playing.

"But he was a 20-year-old whose desire was to play. I tried to counsel him on the right track. I was a little leery, sure. I don't always agree, but once the decision was made, I supported him."

Killum's death stunned Corvallis, a small college town about 90 miles south of Portland.

"You seldom hear of a young person dying of a stroke, usually that only happens when you are older," team captain Scott Haskin said. "It makes you face reality."

Earnest Killum Sr. joined his son's teammates as they ran through the hallways and scurried up the steps into the coliseum. Later, during a timeout, a "special dad" was announced to the crowd. Earnest Killum Sr. stood, as did the crowd of more than 10,000.

Saturday, shouts of joy from the Oregon State players could be heard as they ran from the court to their locker room. They had upset USC, 92-78. Somehow, the spirit of Earnest Killum seemed to be involved.