The Oakland basketball program received harrowing news on Tuesday morning, when word came in that one of its former players, Sebastien Bellin, was wounded in the terrorist attack that killed at least 36 people in Brussels, Belgium.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe heard the news of the attacks on his way into the office, but as he was getting ready to coach practice, he received a text from a mutual acquaintance of his and Bellin’s that the former Oakland standout was a victim in the bombings.
The two had corresponded just a few days ago; Bellin, who helped Oakland win a conference championship in 2000, had a long and successful pro career overseas. He was reaching out to try and help Oakland senior Max Hooper — who lost his father to cancer less than three weeks ago — land a chance with a European pro team.
Bellin was at that airport on Tuesday morning so he could fly home to see his wife and two grade school-age children, and meet with Hooper to discuss pro options. At first, Kampe didn’t want to believe Bellin was injured.
“We got a hold of someone that worked with him, who had dropped him off, and they told us it was six-to-10 minutes after,” Kampe said. “He was in line to get ticketed, and the bomb went off maybe 100 yards away. Then I saw the picture, and that was, you’re still hoping its not true, it’s not him, but you see the picture.”
This is the picture. It was sent out by one of the professional teams Bellin played for.
We wensen onze ex-speler Sebastien Bellin alvast veel sterkte en een spoedig herstel toe! #PrayForBelgium pic.twitter.com/mR19edbqlT
— BC Telenet Oostende (@BCOOSTENDE) March 22, 2016
Bellin, a former member of the Belgium national team, was transported to a nearby hospital and immediately operated on.
“What we’ve found out was that he had a lot of shrapnel in his legs,” Kampe said. “I have not been able to verify that everything [with the surgery] was successful. I’ve only been able to verify that he was going to survive. He’s got more shrapnel in his hip and will need a second surgery.”
Here’s an eye-witness account of one scene on Tuesday at the airport, via CBS News:
Zach Mouzoun, who arrived on a flight from Geneva about 10 minutes before the first blast, told BFM television that the second, louder explosion brought down ceilings and ruptured pipes, mixing water with victims’ blood.
“It was atrocious. The ceilings collapsed,” he said. “There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere.”
“We were walking in the debris. It was a war scene,” he said.
The Brazilian-born Bellin has a house in Battle Creek, Mich., which is approximately two hours west of Oakland University. Kampe remembers how impressive Bellin was after he transferred to OU from Marist in the late 1990s.
“He’s one of those rare athletes that, he got to start every game here and got to win a championship and he thought Oakland changed his life,” Kampe said. “His girlfriend at the time became his wife. He works the summer camp, works out with our players. After he retired he stayed in contact with me. We text, email all the time. After a good win he’d always email me. After a loss, ‘What the hell happened?’ He’s one of the rare guys who believes in Oakland and believes in all that stuff.”
My ex player Seb Bellin was injured in the Brussels bombing. Going for second surgery. Please pray for Seb.
— Greg Kampe (@KampeOU) March 22, 2016
“All I was trying to do was get Oakland fans — I’m a believer in the power of prayer,” Kampe said.
Bellin was one of many former and current athletes who were on site when the attacks hit the Brussels airport and subway system. Most notably, Hall of Fame basketball player Dikembe Mutombo was at the Brussels Airport, as was former St. Mary’s standout Brad Waldow, who tweeted he was safe.
Thank you God for keeping me safe during these attacks in Belgium missed the explosions by minutes#brusselslockdown pic.twitter.com/YuPRyIk0Cf
— Brad Waldow (@bradwaldow) March 22, 2016