Ex-Oakland basketball player injured in Brussels terrorist attack
As he walked into the gym before practice on Tuesday morning, Oakland University coach Greg Kampe received a text message about a former player with whom he's still close.
"Have you heard about Seb?" it read. "He was in a bombing and he's injured very badly."
Too worried to coach, Kampe immediately left the gym and returned to his office to find out more about the condition of Sebastien Bellin a center on Oakland's 2000 Mid-Continent Conference title team. Kampe almost immediately discovered a tweet from Bellin's former Belgian professional team that featured a graphic photo of an injured Bellin lying in a pool of blood minutes following Tuesday's terrorist bombing at the Brussels airport.
"When I saw it, I had to sit down," Kampe told Yahoo Sports."It's gut-wrenching. It's the worst possible feeling you could imagine."
Kampe placed a series of calls to mutual friends in Europe until he reached someone who works with Bellin at a sports production company and knows him very well. The colleague told Kampe that Bellin, 37, was alive but had already undergone one surgery to remove shrapnel from his legs and was about to undergo another to remove shrapnel from his hip.
"He said they dropped him at the airport this morning to come to New York," Kampe said. "Six minutes after he was dropped off, he was in line to check in and the bomb went off 100 yards away from where he was. His luggage was blown up. His phone's gone.
"He's currently in intensive care. I couldn't reach him yet. The only way I can communicate with him is to email, and he's not going to be on that."
Dire news about a former player would always be tough for Kampe to stomach, but it's especially difficult in this case. The longtime Oakland coach and the Brazilian-born center remained very close even as Bellin played professionally in Europe.
This is a guy who would come to Oakland's open gyms or lift weights with the current players whenever he was back in Michigan. This is a guy who would always take the time to email Kampe to congratulate him after big wins or offer advice or suggestions after especially galling losses. Bellin's family still lives in Michigan and in recent years Kampe said he'd split his time between there and his job in Belgium selling automated video software teams can use to record practices.
"When he got to us, he was an international student," Kampe said. "He didn't have the family support here, so as a coach you get closer to those players because they need your help. He's just someone who has been loyal to the program. Oakland is deep into his soul."
Bellin wasn't the only athlete present Tuesday when multiple explosions rocked the Zaventem international airport and the Brussels subway system, killing at least 31 people. Ex-NBA center Dikembe Mutumbo posted on social media that he too was at the airport but he is fine, while former Saint Mary's center Brad Waldow tweeted that he "missed the explosions by minutes."
Not so lucky was Bellin, but Kampe wants him to know he has support of friends, family and the Oakland basketball program.
Said Kampe, "I hope that anyone who reads this will say a prayer."
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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter!