Video Highlights (minute markers)
0:00 Getting to know Blake
1:30 Blake “Making Plays in Life”
2:30 Blake introduces himself
4:20 Suzanne dropping off groceries to Yusuf and Alex
5:00 Check Your Game/dealing with adversity
5:50 Blake gets into details about Yusuf
7:07 “I Love This Game” Yusuf
10:40 I ask Blake what we can learn from Yusuf’s story (appreciation, grateful, positive mindset, follow your passion)
12:50 Lagos, Nigeria (Yusuf’s hometown)
13:15 College of Tusculum
14:20 Mr. Niswonger
16:30 Yusuf complaining about his stomach hurting
19:00 Blake processing Yusuf’s passing
22:50 Blake going through the motions/stale & numb
25:40 Benefits of sharing your story
26:25 What advice do you give to others?
29:30 Getting into basketball the next 12 minutes
30:37 The one bad thing I saw Blake do (it’s not really bad btw and he was only 5 I think)
31:15 Blake talks basketball
32:20 Lack of communication with his coach
33:45 Advice for others in regards to communication
35:45 Using the lemons of life to help impact others
38:00 How to connect with Blake
38:58 Blake’s final words
39:38 God is good
40:25 Please share your comments for Blake
Blake’s written story starts right below this picture!
Growing up I was the only boy, literally right in the middle of three sisters with one older, one younger, and a twin. However, when I got to high school that quickly changed.
Through a relationship formed with one of my very best friends, my family essentially adopted two more boys (although they were the age of my older sister at this point). This action my parents took changed my life forever. It gave me not just one, but two brothers – something I had never had before. The relationships we built since that day have become some of the strongest and most special that I will probably ever have. They are truly my brothers. I love them with everything in me and they love me the same; our relationships are deep, and we cherish them.
At the beginning of 2019, our world began to slowly change. We had found out Yusuf was sick, very sick. This wasn’t the first time either as a few years prior he had been diagnosed with Marfan’s Syndrome and had to have lifesaving open heart surgery. However, this time it was a rare and aggressive form of cancer. The last ten months of his life were odd and it went by so fast. He just wasn’t himself. Don’t get me wrong, we had some amazing times too…lifelong memories were formed, relationships were built, we got to meet his biological mother from Nigeria, my other brother came home from France to spend the summer with us, and we were able to spend a lot of quality time as a family.
Yusuf ended up losing his battle on October 15, 2019. There are many lessons I learned and am still learning as a result of going through this, but today I just want to share one. Take time for what you need. I was at home with Yusuf for a week on my fall break the week before he passed, and then I went back to school. I knew he wasn’t doing great, but I still expected to see him again. However, I never did and later that week he passed away. I came home as soon as I found out, but my stay was short. Only a day after the funeral I went back to school for basketball practice and class, and although I came home during for the weekend as well, that was it. I spent a total of about 4 days at home, and those were all pretty busy ones. The brief stay left little room for me to process what was going on, to feel and understand my emotions, and to remember Yusuf with my loved ones. Instead, I pushed all of those thoughts and feelings aside for the most part and just kept on going with my life. I never allowed myself the time or space to do what I needed to do; I needed to reflect and feel and process, but I didn’t. Neglecting what was going on inside of me resulted in me becoming somewhat depressed and numb. I wasn’t myself and I didn’t know what to do about it. Eventually I realized what was going on and I came to a crossroads; would I continue down this dark path or would I make a change? I decided to make a change. I decided to stop pushing things away, but rather bring things into the light and deal with them. Through this decision, I have been able to start the healing process, doing the things that I didn’t allow myself to do previously. I am still learning what this looks like and still dealing with some of the hard things that developed as a result of his passing. I am also still healing as I ignored this at the beginning, but the important part is that, I am healing. The most important part of this healing process for me has been to learn to trust God for who He says He is and to lean into Him through this process allowing Him to work in me, bring things into the light, and heal me. I am also thankful for the people who have loved me well, supported me, and healed alongside me during this process – surround yourself with people who will do this for you too. So, for whoever is reading this and may be going through something similar, I would encourage you to take time for what you need. Take the time to laugh, to cry, to remember, to wrestle, to pray, to read, to talk, to be silent, to journal… take time for whatever it is that you need, even when you don’t feel like it… the time to heal. I wish I would’ve started the process earlier, and I hope by reading this you will decide to not push things away but to begin your journey now.
Sports have always been a big part of my life; my family life, social life, academic life, and spiritual life – they have affected me in almost every aspect. Growing up I played almost everything, but as I got older, basketball was the sport I fell in love with. I committed to it and began investing time into getting better; it became what I was doing with most of my time. I am thankful for what basketball gave me such as being healthy, memories, all the life lessons, and most importantly, the relationships. However, I am here to share with you something I would have done differently if I had the chance to go back.
After my senior year of high school, I decided to go play basketball for a very successful program in division 3, namely the College of Wooster. I decided to go there for various reasons, including that my brother was currently playing there (Alex), but a big deciding factor was the opportunity to play basketball at the next level. Going there I knew it would be competitive, Wooster had a good program and people wanted to go there to compete for a national championship… so did I. There were guys there who chose to play at Wooster instead of taking money from any division 1 or 2 schools, and although that wasn’t the case for me, I had full confidence in my abilities – I knew I could play there. However, over my four years playing, I never got the chance to really make an impact on the court. Of course, this isn’t what I wanted, but doing some things differently might have led to a different outcome. If you ask people around me, they will probably say I’m a nice guy, and I think my coach would have said the same thing. And although that’s a positive thing, I think it hurt my chances of getting playing time. My coach saw me as a guy who was kind and good to have in the locker room but didn’t really have the grit or tenacity to get it done in the game. That is where I disagree, and if I could go back, I would have tried to communicate that to him. I don’t think my coach really understood the type of player I was and could have been, I think my personality off the court blinded him from who I was on the court. By no means am I saying I would be angry or a mean person on the court, but I would compete. I don’t think I was able to convince my coach of that, and I think that has a lot to do with us not completely taking the time to truly understand each other. If I could do it over again, I would have swallowed my pride, gathered up the courage to go talk to my coach, and talk to him again, and again. What did I have to lose? Now, I’m here typing this without ever really getting meaningful minutes in a game. I’m not mad at myself, and I don’t regret how my college experience turned out. Even though you might be in a situation that’s not easy, might feel weird or might even be pointless, don’t avoid what I avoided and go and talk to that person. You may even feel like you are right and those above you are blind; I understand as I’ve been there before. With my experiences, I have one piece of advice… GO TALK TO THEM! Like me, what do you have to lose? If you don’t, the opportunity to do so will be gone. I ignored this advice that others gave me, and I wish I wouldn’t have. Don’t make the same mistake as me… go walk to the office or pick up the phone and do what you must do, it will be in your best interest.
Although my collegiate basketball career didn’t go exactly as planned, the Lord blessed it.
I still won games, went on trips, built lasting relationships, and even was able to lead some of my teammates to Christ! All because of a game. I say this to encourage you – that although your situation may not be what you want it to be, make the most of it. Do what you can to change the situation (put time in the gym and go have that conversation), but also open your eyes, ears, hands, and heart to learn, to be blessed, and to be used in the present situation you are in.
I didn’t get to play much (a good portion of that was my own fault), but I did have lots of fun and was able to see the Lord use my situation to bring some of my teammates to Him and to plant seeds in the hearts of the rest. I am thankful for my college experience and hope you are encouraged with some of the things I shared. Remember the positives in your life, work on changing the things that you aren’t happy with, while submitting it all to the Lord.
Blake, you have been a great friend to me since the day you were born. I remember when you were just a little kid using a stool so you could reach the sink to brush your teeth, to watching you in your sports events and even being a part of the family when you went on vacation. In all these years, I have seen so much maturity and character. I always tell people that to understand who a person is, you need to look at their fruit. I don't know if you call yourself an apple tree, orange tree or whatever, but I do know that I see lots of fruit on your tree. You are who you say you are and I feel blessed to know you and be able to call you a friend. I'm so sorry about some of the things that you had to experience in the last 4 years, but I know it will make you stronger. You were a good friend to Yusuf and I know he loved you so much! As far as basketball, it's tough for you as well as many others out there who never got a fair shot, but I'm glad you are able to give advice to others who may be in a similar boat as you once were in order to help give them a better chance on their team by taking your instruction.....communicate not tomorrow, not next week or next year, but today! And Lastly Blake, GREAT JOB for sticking it out for the 4 years of basketball. Just the fact that you did that tells me way more about you than if you were the MVP every year for your team! It's the stuff we can't see on the inside that is waaaaaay more important than the outside! You have Jesus in your heart and it shows! Thanks again for your story and can't wait to see where life takes you. Your friend always, Love G
Visit my website: https://www.linkedin.com/in/blake-southerland-5a9220156/