Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash: Washington high school basketball community reacts

Kobe Bryant, five-time NBA champion, and Gianna Bryant, his 13-year old daughter, died in a helicopter crash in Calibasas, California on Sunday, according to numerous reports. He was 41.

Local authorities said nine people were on board the helicopter and no one survived. The names of the other seven passengers have not been released.

The news left an immediate impact on the basketball world and beyond, including players and coaches associated with high school basketball in the state of Washington.

Kobe Bryant and Gianna (or “Gigi), one of his four daughters, visited Cashmere High School on Jan. 11 to watch the 1A girls basketball team and standout Hailey Van Lith defeat Medical Lake, 63-27.

Van Lith, a senior Louisville commit and McDonald’s All-American, posted photos with Bryant and his 13-year old daughter Gianna, who was widely considered among the top recruits in the country for the class of 2024.

“I am at a loss for words,” Van Lith wrote in a post to Instagram Sunday. “I can only be thankful God gave me time to build a friendship and mentorship with both of you. Never have I seen a passion for life burn so bright in two individuals. Thank you for changing my life. Conversations I shared with you both touched my heart and I will cherish them forever. Until I see you again, I love y’all and Rest in Peace.”

On Saturday night after Van Lith scored a game-high 39 points in a 65-44 win over King’s in Shoreline, Scorebook Live senior reporter Todd Milles asked the Cashmere standout to reflect on all of her accomplishments over the past nine to 10 months – including those special visits with Bryant and his family.

Image may contain: 17 people, people smiling, indoor

“I am very blessed,” Van Lith said. “I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by a group of teammates and coaches that fully support me, and have my back though everything.”

Van Lith mentioned the support from her family as well.

“I also have people who keep me humble,” she said. “It is good to enjoy the things that I do well, but I also know I don’t do some things so well. There are still more things I can do.”

Union High School announced its boys basketball game on Tuesday at Battle Ground will be a “purple out” to honor the Bryants.

Here is that Van Lith Instagram photo, and other reactions from members of the Washington high school basketball community:

Rainier Beach grad and three-time NBA sixth man of the year Jamal Crawford. (via Twitter)
Former NBA player, Prairie High School standout (and Scorebook Live analyst) Dan Dickau. (via Twitter)
Former Curtis standout, Washington Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas.
O’Dea junior forward Paolo Banchero. (via Twitter)
Chiawana sophomore Talia Von Oelhoffen. (via Twitter)
Zillah high school boys basketball coach Mario Mengarelli. (via Twitter)

Former Prairie High School, USC standout and current Prairie girls assistant basketball coach Ashley Corral.

Former Franklin High School and Eastern Washington standout guard Alvin Snow. (via Twitter)
Olympia junior forward Jackson Grant. (via Twitter)
Union senior guard Brad Lackey. (via Twitter)
NFL running back, former Gonzaga Prep standout Bishop Sankey. (via Twitter)

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