With just over five minutes to play left in the fourth quarter, Killeen junior Michael House was determined to help rally his team against one of District 12-6A’s toughest opponents.
The Kangaroos trailed Shoemaker 54-34 heading into the final eight minutes of play on Jan. 18 and House led Killeen with 18 points.
Aiming to get the Roos out of a 20-point hole with just five minutes, 28 seconds left on the clock, House took off down the lane for a layup.
And then everything went dark.
What the 5-foot-9 junior guard didn’t realize was that Shoemaker star forward J’Wan Roberts was coming for the block and House crashed to the floor.
“I thought he was frustrated because he had his hands on his head,” Killeen senior forward Jackson Taylor recalled of seeing House lying on his back underneath the basket. “I ran over to help him up and then he started shaking.”
In the few moments that House blacked out, he suffered a seizure caused by trauma from landing on his head.
“What happened?” House wondered as he opened his eyes. “Why am I on the floor?”
THREE WEEKS LATER
Three weeks removed from the incident, House recalled the confusion he felt as he started to wake up.
“There was a brief second that I don’t remember,” he said. “But there was a brief second that I do remember getting hit and then waking up on the floor, so it was like, ‘what did I miss?’”
As he started to regain consciousness, House remembered being on the ground and answering questions from Killeen head athletic trainer Jessica Beeman.
“When he went down, it was like, ‘OK, how long is he going to be down?’” Beeman explained of the factors she noted in order to evaluate the situation. “How long is this going to last? What’s he going to be like when he wakes up? What’s the next step?
“It was all positive outcomes, so it wasn’t as stressful as it could have been.”
And while House knew where he was and that he was on the floor, he also knew something wasn’t right.
“I remember just everything looked the same,” he recalled. “Because I went from the gym to the ambulance, but I don’t remember when I got on the board.
“Then I remember being in the hospital.”
While he was taken out of the game by stretcher with his mother by his side, she asked him if he wanted to wave to the crowd.
“I was like, ‘No, not really,” House said, laughing as he thought back to that moment in front of a gym-packed crowd. “But then she did it for me.”
Although the Roos coaching staff tried to use the moment to inspire the team, Killeen lost 65-42.
“We might as well have called the game right there,” recalled Killeen head coach Reggie Huggins. “Because after the game it was only about everybody getting dressed, do what you got to do and let’s get to the hospital to make sure everything is OK.”
For the longtime Roos coach, this wasn’t the first time he’s seen one of his players go down with this type of injury.
“That happened to Demarius Cress,” Huggins said. “And it’s kind of crazy that Cress and Mike House, they live in the same neighborhood a couple houses down from each other.
“As a coach, it’s very emotional to see that.”
Cress recovered and is now winding down a stellar career at Mary Hardin-Baylor.
OUT, BUT STILL PLAYING ROLE
House is done for the season, but fans these days can find him on the sidelines continuing to support his team in a different way.
“Motivate them in ways I couldn’t before,” he explained. “Being on the court with them I could motivate them to work hard, but not being on the floor, I can now see things they can’t see.
“So I tell them things like, play backside D or box out the extra man; it’s just being there for them and being their eyes from a different perspective.”
And while sitting out may be hard for the junior guard who has played basketball his entire life, his teammates know that his insight is beneficial.
“He’s not afraid to tell anyone anything because he really wants to win,” Taylor said. “Even though it’s his junior year and he has one more, he really wants to be on the court, so he’s going to do everything he can to make sure he’s in the game with us.”
The loud noises that come with the atmosphere of a game can be overwhelming for those who are recovering from a head trauma like House’s, so sometimes he sits on the bench with headphones on.
“In the beginning, I had to wear them,” he explained. “But now it’s more of a choice. It just depends on how the game is set up.
“Like the Ellison game, it was too loud for me. ... It mainly depends if I have a headache or not. It muffles the sound but I still pay attention.”
And while he’s made progress — from being allowed to climb stairs again, drive himself to school and stay in school for an entire day — House knows that it’s going to take more time before he’s playing the game he loves again.
“I know I say I’m ready to go right now,” he admitted, “but I know I’m not.
“For other people to be more scared to watch me play, it bothers me. So I’d rather be safe in my own mind before I step back on the court.”
A LOOK AT THE VIDEO
The first step toward recovery for House was watching the game video of the incident.
“When the Hudl film came out and I saw it, it was even more scary,” he recalled. “Because I never thought that would happen, especially with something that I’ve been doing my whole life.”
House has seen the video a few times since that first viewing, mainly because people ask what happened and he would show them. His teammates have also watched the film.
“I went home after the hospital and watched it,” Taylor said. “I know he watched it too but, yeah, it was hard to watch for me.”
Watching the video was reliving the moment for the senior forward who has a close friendship with House.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Taylor said as he recalled seeing his friend hurt on the floor. “I tried to talk to him but (the coaches) kept pushing us away because I kept trying to go over there.
“Eventually, we all had to go to the bench. So I came to the bench and started praying.”
Unable to sit still for long, Taylor went behind the bench to check on fellow senior Willie McGee, who was getting his ankle wrapped.
“I remember my mom was like, ‘Jackson is losing his mind right now,’” recalled House. “So then I was like, tell him come here so I can let him know that I’m OK.”
For Taylor, “(House) is like my little brother, we’re like best friends.
“We’ve been close since I got here. ... and we have a really tight relationship, so for him to be thinking — even though he was the one that was hurt — to make sure I was OK, that means a lot to me.”
As Taylor walked over to House, the younger Roo noticed the older one break down.
“I was like, ‘Dang,’” House recalled.
As the Kangaroos made their way to Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Hospital in Temple after the game, the support House got from his teammates and coaches meant a lot.
The Roos know his health is the only thing that matters right now and no one is in a hurry to rush House back onto the court.
“This is a bit different than being injured for like a leg or a foot,” Huggins said. “This has lifelong implications with that type of injury, so the kids were obviously shook up about it.”
House, himself, feels as though he’s getting better each day.
“I am,” he said. “From like two days after I got out of the hospital to now, yeah, I’m feeling better.”
House had never had a seizure before. He said his doctor told him, “It was just a head trauma from hitting my head in the spot that I hit it in.
“She was saying that she sees it all the time, and now I just have to be aware of it and always try to brace my fall, stuff like that.”
Initially, House thought, “What did I do to deserve this? Why me?”
While taking the time to recover, he started to realize perhaps it was time to slow down a bit.
“Maybe I needed it, maybe I was working myself too hard,” House said. “Everything happens for a reason, so it wasn’t too much of me being down on myself anymore.”
NO HARD FEELINGS
Once home and seeing the reaction on social media, House noticed that Roberts was getting a lot of heat for the incident.
“So I actually Facetimed him,” House said. “And he looked like he was getting emotional and I was like, ‘Bro, do you want me to call you instead?’”
House made that call to Roberts to let him know that he didn’t blame Roberts for what happened and that he was doing well.
Sitting in the bleachers before the Roos faced another district opponent, House sat just watching the JV game unfold.
He plans to get back to the game he knows and loves so much, when the time is right for his mind, but he knows where he hopes to be next year.
“Stronger mentally,” House said.
The next step in returning to the court for the Roos starts now, as the junior is ready to put the accident behind him and move forward.
“At first, I needed to see it,” House reflected once more on watching that game film from that play. “Like people can tell me what happened but I want to know what happened.”
Will he keep reliving and rewatching that moment?
“Nah.” he replied. “I’m putting it away.”