But he's been able to bank on his teammates, and one in particular.
When Kurt Budke and Jim Littell arrived in Stillwater in 2005, their youngest sons of the same age became close.
“We've been friends since we both moved here — best friends, really,” Brett Budke said of Jon Littell.
After the plane crash, the two sophomores leaned on each other, and their basketball team.
“It's been amazing,” Jon Littell said. “I couldn't ask for a better bunch of guys. It was a difficult time for us, but we've just got to stick together like we've been and continue to move forward.”
Under coach Michael Davis, the Pioneers have grieved in a positive way. They have experienced big success.
“They are on a mission right now,” OSU coach Jim Littell said. “This group, whether it's through the motivation or their chemistry or just how hard they play, they've probably far exceeded the expectations that a lot of people hard for them.
“They haven't put any limitations on how far they can go or who they can beat ... This is no disrespect, but they are probably overachieving quite a bit just because of their attitude and effort level.”
Davis said: “We're just one family. Sitting here talking about it, I'm getting emotional, but that's just how much (Kurt Budke) meant to us.”