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Emporia State’s Downing wears #34 in honor of late grandfather

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 11:15 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Less than 72 hours before Emporia State’s Wednesday night tip-off, senior guard Austin Downing received devastating news.

His grandfather, Chic Downing, passed away at the age 72.

Chic was a basketball legend himself as a 1972 NBA Draft pick to the Knicks, Kansas Sports Hall of Famer, and six-time state champion at Atchison High School: four as a coach and two as a player.

“He was the reason I picked up a basketball when I was younger,” Austin said. “He’s been my father figure my whole life.”

Wednesday’s game against Northeastern State was Senior Night for the Hornets. Austin walked out with loved ones wearing shirts with Chic in his playing days at Benedictine.

“It humbled me. It makes me feel grateful for what I have. I saw him this past weekend. He was supposed to walk with me today,” Austin said. “He still was, just in a different way.”

Through the pain of his loss, Austin chose to suit up donning a new jersey: #34.

It’s the same number his role model wore in his days on the hardwood.

“He wore it with a heavy heart, but I thought he wore it as well as anybody could wear it,” ESU head coach Craig Doty said.

“I just know for a fact he wanted me to play tonight,” Austin said. “Regardless of how the outcome came, he would’ve still been proud of me.”

Austin scored 13 points and dished out seven assists in the Hornets’ 97-72 win over the Riverhawks.

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