By CALEB SLINKARD
The Commerce Journal
Hundreds of students gathered in the old East Circle on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce Wednesday night to celebrate the lives of Devin Oliver and Aubree Butts, two A&M-Commerce basketball players who died in a car crash Tuesday night.
Many students and faculty members shared their thoughts with the group that gathered at 9 p.m. near Rachel’s Garden. Some, such as Dr. Lavelle Hendricks and former A&M-Commerce basketball coach Nicole Anderson, offered poignant, spiritual thoughts; others simply told stories. Near the end of the ceremony, students and community members lit candles and joined together in prayer.
“They touched not only my life, but your life in an incredible way,” Anderson said. “They provided strength, encouragement, focus, determination, but most importantly, the love of God that surpasses all understanding. These young women loved each other and loved this university like family. They carried themselves with absolute excellence at all times.”
Oliver and Butts were killed after a car carrying them and two other A&M-Commerce student-athletes, La’Tisha Hearne and Zenobia Winbush was struck from behind by an 18-wheeler on Loop 286 in Paris. Hearne and Winbush sustained injuries and were taken to a local hospital and subsequently released. The players were on their way to watch a summer league basketball game.
“The first thing we can do is just be there for [the students], which I think is the most important thing we can do,” A&M-Commerce Athletic Director Ryan Ivey said. “This is a very trying time for all of us. Aubree and Devin were two wonderful people, and left a big whole for the entire campus community. They embodied what it means to be a Lion.”
A second year player, Butts played in 27 games at guard for the Lions during the 2013-14 season, averaging 6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. A junior, Oliver averaged 25.6 minutes per game in 27 matches for the Lions, adding 10.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Both were stars at their respective high schools and active on campus.
According to a university press release, the Counseling Center is available to walk-in students, as well as faculty and staff, who would like to speak with a counselor.
The Rayburn Student Center is also open for groups of students, organizations and others who may wish to meet and hold vigil.