Five years after gruesome car crash, Vermont’s Josh Speidel scores first college points

Speidel, a highly touted recruit from Indiana, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash his senior year of high school.

The University of Vermont's 3,224-seat Patrick Gym.
The University of Vermont's 3,224-seat Patrick Gym. –University of Vermont

Josh Speidel had more than a dozen offers to play Division I basketball when he committed to play at Vermont before his senior year of high school. But after a car accident during his senior year of high school left him in a coma with a traumatic brain injury, his D1 dreams were put on hold.

During Tuesday’s win over Albany, Speidel suited up for the Catamounts on senior night and scored the first points of his college career.

“The last five years, it was hard work, and with the right help and with the dedication that I would get to senior night,” Speidel told The Republic.

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Speidel, now 24, was an Indiana All-Star and is the all-time leading scorer at Columbus North High School, where Vermont recruited him before his senior season – and before the car accident on Super Bowl Sunday in 2015.

Coach John Becker visited Speidel and his parents in the hospital in Indianapolis to inform them that Speidel’s scholarship would still be honored, according to The Republic. He took a gap year after graduating, and started at Vermont in August 2016, where he’s rehabbed with trainers but was never cleared for contact or practice with the team.

The Republic reported that a doctor told Speidel he wouldn’t learn to read above a fourth-grade level after his accident. He will graduate from Vermont’s College of Education in May, after entering his senior year with a 3.4 GPA.

“I didn’t know how long it was going to take,” Speidel said. “I was just looking to graduate, whether it was four years or five years or six years or however long it took. It was hard work, but with all the extra hands and guidance, that made it possible.”

Since Speidel came to Burlington, the Catamounts reached the NCAA tournament twice, became the first unbeaten team in the America East Conference, and have been the league’s top seed in four consecutive seasons.

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“I told Josh that the years he’s been here are the best years of this program’s history, arguably,” Becker told the Burlington Free Press. “It’s hard to know why. I just think there’s something that you can’t really explain and you don’t know what it is, but there’s something there.

“He’s been in some way a big part of it and he’ll always be linked to this program’s history in my mind.”

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