Before his sudden death, Ewan Linton (right) starred at the University of Pikeville in Kentucky for two seasons and was looking forward to growing his game after being selected 9th overall by the Rochester Razorsharks in the 2010 Premier Basketball League draft.
In early June of last year, Brian Ostermann was on vacation in Minnesota and planning to hit the recruiting trail for his fifth season as associate head coach of the women's basketball program at Texas Christian University when the emails started coming in.
Shock and sadness followed.
Prior to joining TCU, Coach Ostermann served as head men's basketball coach at Missouri State-West Plains in the National Junior College Association and in those four seasons he had the privilege to coach and get to know several young men who came through the program and became an extension of his own family.
Ewan Linton was one of those young men.
But now at only 27-years old, he was gone.
"I am still not aware of all the details surrounding how it happened and it doesn't really matter," Coach Ostermann told Ridiculous Upside of the 6-foot-8 forward whom he coached for two seasons.
"He is missed by many that did come in contact with him and those that never had a chance to meet him missed out."
On Friday June 10, 2011, Linton died after he drowned in the Russell Fork River at the Breaks Interstate Park near Elkhorn City in Kentucky after spending the day swimming with friends.
The sad news spread heartache throughout the community of Pikeville, the small college town just north of Elkhorn City, where Linton had played basketball before graduating and chasing bigger hoop dreams. Now a year later, those who were fortunate to know Linton reflect on the last year without a young man who was more than a basketball player who desired to grow in the game and life.
Linton was a son, brother, husband, father and along the way his talents kept him on the floor from small colleges, to Mexico, to the American Basketball Association to drafted in the first round (9th overall pick) by the Rochester Razorsharks of the upstart Premiere Basketball League.
His game was believed to be going somewhere -- an impressive showing in the PBL could lead to the chance to develop overseas, maybe even get a shot at the D-League after that. The world was his.
Linton's game was worth the look.
Known to his friends and family as "Bibi", Ewan Patrick Orlando Linton grew up without much in Kingston, Jamaica and attended Kingston High School where he quickly developed into a prospect who used his size on the floor to change the game - explosive, a shot blocker, and more than Jamaica could contain.
After attending the NIKE Jamaica Basketball Development (JDB) and Jamaica Basketball Association (JABA) Star Search Basketball and Life Skills Development Camp for a number of years, Linton earned a full basketball scholarship to Missouri State University - West Plains in the summer of 2005 and instantly made an impression on Coach Ostermann.
"My assistant at the time presented me with the opportunity to sign a 6-foot-8, 223 pound player from Jamaica. He came highly recommended and one thing lead to another and we decided to offer Ewan a full scholarship," Ostermann remembers.
"He greeted me and all of West Plains with his terrific positive personality. He would need that positive personality as we started conditioning the first week. I got on Ewan about simply hanging out at the beach year round in Jamaica and that he would have to commit year round if he wanted to be a real player. Ewan simply answered like he always would - ‘No worries coach'".
In two seasons at West Plains, Linton helped the team to back-to-back 20 win seasons and averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds per game in 2006-07, graduated with an A.A. degree in Communications before continuing his education at the University of Pikeville of the NAIA Division I Mid-South Conference in Pikeville, Kentucky.
"I actually got to know Ewan through a friend of mine who recruited him to play at Arkansas Tech, but he wasn't eligible for D-2 so we jumped at the chance to have him in our program", said Pikeville head coach Kelly Wells.
"When he came to visit, he never left. We loved his personality and smile and Linton became a part of our team, school and community immediately...he was called "Jamaica" by all his friends around."
It was at Pikeville where "Jamaica's" game flourished.
In his junior year, he averaged 11.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He remained consistent in the 2008-09 season, where he scored 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and was named Team Captain. In two seasons, Linton played 60 games and averaged 10.6 points, 7.1 rebounds in his career, while finishing second in blocks per game (1.5) as a senior. Boasting career bests of 24 points and 14 rebounds, he turned his attention to the pro game after graduating with a B.A. degree in Business Administration. Instead, Linton joined Wells' coaching staff as a student assistant as he contemplated his basketball future.
For Wells, Linton's future was set to shine brightly, in and away from the game.
"I received a call from a former Pikeville player who is the fish and wildlife person in our county and he was on the scene search party," Wells recalls about receiving the news of Linton's death.
"I haven't had a day pass that Ewan hasn't been on my mind and in my prayers. Losing Ewan is like losing a member of my family, because he had been with me for the last four years in some capacity...my two favorite moments of knowing Ewan was him walking across the stage at graduation after all his hard work and the first day he brought his young daughter, Sahnia, to the office to visit."
On this Father's Day, Wells' words and story about Linton and his own young family -- his wife Heather Linton and Sahnia -- bring to mind the heart of this loss that will be forever felt.
That's what happens when a basketball story becomes more than just about basketball.
Before the 2009-10 season, Linton finally signed to play with Bucaneros de Campeche in Mexico before eventually settling in closer to home and playing for the East Kentucky Energy of the American Basketball Association.
Linton then set his eyes on the PBL, where the Rochester Razorsharks were excited to welcome him and get training camp and the season underway.
"I spoke with him at points during the season, just kind of checking in to see how he was doing. He had finished getting his degree and was staying in shape. Needless to say I was shocked and saddened when I received the text from one of my assistant coaches,' said Razorsharks head coach Rod Baker.
Shock and sadness.
Those two words still resonate twelve months after Linton's death.
Yet, taking the time to celebrate his memory this past week also generates thoughts of his outgoing personality and knack for making people laugh in a story that extends beyond the game. That goes for Linton's days growing up in Jamaica, brief stay in Missouri and then on to Kentucky, and easily would have continued in Rochester.
Gone too soon.
This past March, friends and former classmates of Linton's at Missouri State University-West Plains united to establish an athletic scholarship in his name and asked others in the community to join them.
They want to make sure Ewan Linton's name and story lives on.
And it will.