By: NEIL KING
The sounds and sights of pregame warm ups were the same. The sounds of basketballs bouncing against the court and backboards and the squeaking of shoes remained. The crowd was a little bigger than normal for an IU South Bend basketball game, but not overwhelmingly so.
It was the moment of silence for the mother of Joe Godfread, and his courageous decision to play, that made the game bigger than scores and statistics.
Just three days after his mother Rachelle was shot and killed while shopping at Martin’s Super Market in Elkhart, the IUSB sophomore put on his #54 jersey, laced up his shoes and joined his teammates for a game of basketball against Robert Morris University.
According to police, Rachelle Godfread was shopping at the East Bristol Street grocery store on Wednesday, Jan. 15, when 22-year-old Shawn Walter Bair of Elkhart entered the store and fatally shot both Godfread, 44, and Krystle Dikes, 20, who had just started working there. Bair was fatally shot that night by Elkhart police. The local tragedy has gained national attention.
The pregame moment of silence on Saturday was thick with grief and respect as Godfread did his best to stand tall and proud with his teammates. Even in his moment of courage and strength he broke in his grief during the silence and was embraced by a teammate in front of fans and family.
After starting in 12 of the first 17 games, Godfread sat on the bench until five-and-a-half minutes into the first half. The 6-foot-8 inch center jogged onto the court to a smattering of applause from the crowd. The applause would come again, louder this time, as just seconds later Godfread got the ball close to the basket, posted up and spun around a defender for an easy bucket.
Saturday’s game didn’t remain so athletically easy for Godfread. A little over halfway through the second half Godfread drew a flagrant foul from Courtney Jones as Godfread was driven down onto the court. Godfread lay on the court for a few moments grabbing his head, clearly shaken. He then got up, and after shaking out the cobwebs and stretching his neck, hit both of his free throws.
Godfread finished the game, shooting two of three from the field, five of six from the free throw line, snatching two rebounds and getting three of the teams five blocks in 16 minutes of play.
His efforts weren’t enough to carry his team to a victory as the Titan men lost 71-84, but Godfread’s courage, effort to maintain a sense of normalcy and decision to join his teammates following his family’s violent loss was immeasurable.
In a pregame press conference, IUSB Chancellor Terry Allison spoke briefly about Godfread’s situation on behalf of the university. Allison said that neither the team nor the coaches wanted to speak to the media on the matter of Godfread’s loss or his decision to play in Saturday’s game.
Allison’s message was one of university and community solidarity, the closeness of IUSB’s athletic teams and the quest to find answers as a university to the senseless violence that is reported all too often.
Allison said that Godfread is doing very well, and that Godfread’s mother Rachelle regularly attended games and was known in the Titan sports community.