ARCADIA – “Happy Father’s Day” may not mean the same to those whose fathers are not around.
For the first time, Hamilton Heights basketball star Gus Etchison understands that feeling.
His father, Tony, passed away in October following a tragic farming accident near the Etchison’s home in Arcadia.
On Gus’ first Father’s Day without his dad, he shot at Hamilton Heights Middle School, where Tony coached Gus from sixth to eighth grade.
“Sometimes, it’s tough because it brings back little memories that get me upset,” Gus told CBS4. “I just like coming in here because I have so many good memories with him.”
The middle school is also where Tony’s funeral was held eight months ago. Nearly 5,000 people attended.
“I feel like here and at my high school there is a presence,” Gus said of his late father. “Whenever I was playing this year and I would go and make some stupid shots, I was like, ‘how the heck did I make that.’ I’d be like, ‘oh, Dad’s watching over me.'”
Gus averaged 25 points per game as a junior last season. He announced his commitment to play basketball for Western Michigan University in May.
Gus looks to carry the legacy of his father, who played basketball for Mercer from 1992 to 1996.
“I try to honor him. Not do anything stupid because I know he’s watching,” Gus said laughing. “I can’t really get away with anything anymore.”
Tony Etchison starred at Noblesville High School, where he guided the Millers to three sectional titles and scored 1,357 points.
Gus surpassed his father’s points total this season. He also reached the 1,000 points milestone December 21, when Hamilton Heights hosted Noblesville.
“I think it was 11 points to get there. The first half I only had 10. Coming out, I got fouled like the first couple seconds of the second half,” Gus said. “I remember just hitting that free throw. Just everyone went crazy and the whole gym erupted. The student section and I remember looking at my mom and went and gave her a hug. We were both crying.”
This Father’s Day would have been Tony and Toby Etchison’s 21st wedding anniversary. They were high school sweethearts. Gus said Toby has been keeping the family together.
“My mom, she has really stepped up. She’s done everything for us,” he said. “Whenever we are upset, just sad or anything, she’s there for us. Just holding us.”