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Stillwater basketball team playing for Budke family, others lost in crash

HOOP DREAMS — The Stillwater boys have dedicated this season to those lost in the November plane crash, including Kurt Budke, the father of team member Brett Budke. Brett Budke was in the Pioneers' regular rotation before suffering a torn ACL in December.
BY JASON KERSEY, Staff Writer, jkersey@opubco.com Published: January 12, 2012

— Stillwater's boys basketball team had every reason to accept this as a rebuilding year.

No returning starters. Nine seniors lost. Inexperience all the way around.

But the Pioneers are 9-2 and ranked No. 7 in Class 6A. They are playing with a purpose. A purpose they carry in their hearts and wear on their backs.

On the back of Stillwater's white, long-sleeved warm-up shirts, the word “Family” is printed in blue.

Beneath it is a picture of the Budkes; a photograph that includes one of the Pioneers' own.

“They think of me, and we all think of each other as family,” said guard Brett Budke, who has had an unimaginably tough sophomore year of high school.

Brett's father, Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke, died with three others in a November plane crash.

The Stillwater boys have dedicated this season to those lost in the crash.

“We have to use this as motivation,” said Stillwater sophomore player Jon Littell, whose father Jim replaced Budke as OSU women's head coach.

“That's what Coach Budke would want us to do.”

After Kurt Budke's death, playing basketball became Brett Budke's escape. Basketball provided an escape from the pain of losing his dad.

“I would come to the court, and they didn't treat me any different,” Brett Budke said. “It was a relief. I could forget everything and just have fun with my friends.”

Brett Budke was in the Pioneers' regular rotation until suffering a torn ACL in December, an injury that has ended his season.

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