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Maryland basketball team mourns death of Kobe Bryant: ‘I always looked up to him'

One of Maryland’s biggest victories since joining the Big Ten six years ago was tempered by the news of former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant’s death Sunday in a helicopter crash in Southern California.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after the No. 17 Terps beat Indiana, 77-76, at Assembly Hall that he and his staff learned of the tragedy after the game ended and told the players in the dressing room.

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“We told them. We wanted them to hear it from us. I was told it was official, so we told them,” Turgeon said at a postgame news conference. “It’s a sad day, unfortunate.”

Turgeon said that he had limited contact with Bryant during his NBA career. The only time came when Turgeon was an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1997-98 season. Bryant was from Philadelphia.

“That was really the only time I was around Kobe,” Turgeon said. “One of the all-time best.”

Sophomore forward Jalen Smith, whose game-winning lay-up with 14 seconds left capped off a career-high 29-point performance, said he became a Los Angeles Lakers fan because of Bryant.

Smith said that the celebration of Maryland’s first road win at Indiana since joining the league for the 2014-15 season was tempered by the news that Bryant and eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were reportedly killed.

“It was a hard moment, going from a cheerful to a little down moment,” Smith said. “I idolized Kobe, I always looked up to him. He was the reason I became a Lakers fan. Just knowing that we lost that type of legend and that type of leadership in this community and this world just hurts a lot.”

Sophomore wing Aaron Wiggins summed up the feelings of many in hearing the terrible news. Wiggins said that the players were informed after the team’s regular postgame prayer.

“Every guy in that locker room can probably tell you they looked up to Kobe regardless of how much they dislike him or like somebody else,” Wiggins said. “Somebody like Kobe Bryant, you just don’t expect … he just seems untouchable. You don’t expect somebody like him to leave so fast. It’s a tough one.”

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