SALISBURY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Livingstone basketball players spent the day with grief counselors, college president Dr. Anthony Davis, and men’s basketball head coach James Stinson.

The New Trent gymnasium remained quiet on the Livingstone campus Wednesday because everyone was hurting over the tragic death of Eric Henderson.

“One word, grief,” Davis said after speaking with the players. “We’re all grieving. Blue Bear nation lost a very personable, polite, always pleasant young man.”

The 21-year-old Henderson was driving back to the Salisbury campus after visiting family for Christmas. According to N.C. State Highway Patrol, his car crossed the centerline on U.S. Highway 13 in Wade, hitting another vehicle. An off-duty Cumberland County deputy drove the other car and was taken to the hospital with severe injuries.

“He stayed with us a couple of hours,” said Henderson’s aunt, Erica Wright. “We laughed and joked, and then he told us he was headed back to school.

“That’s one of those things that you stop what you’re doing and sit on the phone trying to figure out what’s going on,” former teammate Brandon Murray added. “First, you hear it and think it can’t be real.”

The basketball team was returning to campus because they were heading to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a winter tournament. Now, that tournament appearance is off as the student-athletes mourn their teammate’s death.

Many say they will miss the smile and the positive energy Eric Henderson brought each day. The team’s rally cry is more than play for E. They want to be part of a legacy Henderson is leaving at Livingstone College.

“If we’re going to do it for him, then let’s do it like he would have done it,” added Stinson as he talked about meeting with the players. “That’s important. That’s a life lesson that they need to learn. It’s bigger than basketball for me.”

“He would want us to keep going,” says Murray. “He wouldn’t want us to take any step back. He would want us to keep being positive and do what we’re supposed to do. We all have the same goal as him, and now we are going to try and act like he did. Work as hard as we can every day on and off the court.”

Davis says the college will be doing something to honor Eric Henderson. He and college officials are discussing how to honor the late player.