MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

January 21, 2013

Connors State still grieving over fallen player

— Sometimes when tragedy strikes an athletic team, a coach will tell his players the best thing that helps in coping is to resume their daily activities.

For Connors State coach Bill Muse, that is the message he is relaying to his men’s basketball team as they deal with the death of former Cowboy Anthony Hartfield Jr. who was shot and killed last Monday in Oklahoma City.

“We got the news around 10 a.m.,” Muse said. “We immediately set up grief counseling for the players and students. He was a suite mate with members of the team but also a classmate with other students.

“He ate meals with students. A lot of students got to know him. It was very shocking. He was really a good person and always had a smile on his face.”

Hartfield played for the Cowboys during the fall semester but left the team two weeks ago to assist his family with financial needs.

The Cowboys took the court last Monday after hearing of their teammate’s death but their thoughts were elsewhere as they lost to Northern-Tonkawa 69-64 in overtime.

“He came back after the Christmas break and resumed practicing with the team,” Muse said. “Six days before our next game, he informed us he had to leave. He told us there were bills to pay and his father needed his help. Then last Monday, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Last Tuesday, the school held a candlelight vigil which was attended by over 200 students, coaches, faculty, staff and administrators. Speakers at the vigil among others were Muse and player Hakeem Harris.

The Cowboys begin another grieving session at 8 p.m. tonight when they host Western Oklahoma State. On Wednesday, they will travel to Oklahoma City, where Hartfield lived with his father, to attend funeral services for Hartfield at  11 a.m. at Temple and Sons Earl M. Temple Memorial Chapel. Following the service on Wednesday, Hartfield’s body will be flown to Minneapolis, where his mother resides, for a second funeral service.

The Cowboys will be wearing T-shirts in Hartfield’s honor and have dedicated the rest of the season to his memory.

“We’re going up Wednesday for the funeral in Oklahoma City,” Muse said. “We’re gonna take our charter bus for our players plus any other students that are interested in attending. Then we get ready to play Eastern Oklahoma on Thursday in Wilburton.

“He’s always on our minds. It’s an emotional thing, even talking about it right now.”

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