The Hobart boys basketball team met in the high school gym Sunday night with coach Mike Black, sitting in a circle of chairs on the court, where Juan Lamar had left his mark the last three years.

One chair, draped with jersey No. 32, sat empty in memory of the 2015 graduate, a beloved teammate who died in a crash early Saturday.

"We have a big group of seniors who played with Juan. He was a big part of everything we were and are," Black said. "We're a family. We spend a lot of time together. We care for each other. It was very therapeutic for all of us."

The team stayed for several hours, sharing stories about Lamar. They cried, hugged and eventually smiled.

"It became OK to laugh, to remember Juan like that," Black said.

The goal was the same for Monday evening's candlelight gathering in the football stadium, where the community joined hands and hearts for the Celebrate Juan Lamar Walk. A student emailed Black the idea on Sunday and he passed the idea along to administration and it progressed with the approval of Hobart schools Superintendent Peggy Buffington.

"It speaks volumes of who Juan was," Black said. "When these things happen, people always say, 'He was a terrific kid.' I'm sure in most cases they are, but Juan really was a special kid. He had a lot of accolades that you would consider a superstar to have on the floor, but more than that, he was a superstar in life. He didn't have a clique. It seemed like he was friends with everyone. There wasn't anybody I knew who had a bad opinion of him."

A former basketball coach, Hobart Athletic Director Bob Glover appreciated Lamar's on-court talents. He also admired Lamar off the court.

"He always had a smile on his face," Glover said. "I loved to watch him play. He had so much energy. He made himself an outstanding player. His work ethic was second to none. It's an overused cliché, but he really was a role model, a great student leader."

Lamar didn't lose many sprints in practice. Senior or freshman, he showed no mercy in one-on-one drills. Lamar was demonstrative on court, sometimes to the frustration of his coach, but it all spoke to his passion.

"People who didn't know Juan might misconstrue it as selfish, celebrating individually, but he just wanted to win," Black said. "He was self-motivated. He was just doing it to pump us up. He was one of the most competitive guys I've been around. He worked as hard or harder than anybody."

Extra counselors were at the high school Monday for students and staff. Banners were put up in the cafeteria to sign and express support. Black said the team has already come up with ideas on how to honor Lamar this season.

"I met Juan in fifth grade," Black said. "I really enjoyed watching him grow, develop, mature. The community is just trying to wrap its arms around the family."

Services are pending through Powell-Coleman Funeral home in Gary.


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.