MUNCIE, Ind. — University of Cincinnati basketball player Jeremiah Davis III and his family have plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving — even if they can't celebrate it in the same home they have for the past decade.
An electrical fire ravaged Davis’ parents’ house in Muncie, Ind. Tuesday night, leaving burnt debris and a strong odor throughout the house, which is uninhabitable.
His family — father Jeremiah Davis II, mother Maria Davis and his brother Aaron Davis — is currently living in a hotel, but both Davis III and his family are happy nobody was injured in the incident.
“It’s Thanksgiving you know and I’m just thankful for my family,” Davis III said. “They’re what’s most important. Family is the biggest thing.”
If family is most important, his teammates and coaches are a close second. He said the support he’s received has been invaluable.
“They’ve been very supportive,” Davis said. “They gave me their condolences and have been trying to make me laugh to just get my mind off of that. The coaches have done a great job. They called my family and made sure everybody was alright.”
Currently, the university is analyzing possible ways it could help the Davis family but the process is not easy, said Mick Cronin, men’s basketball head coach.
Cronin, who went through a similar process when former UC player Mike Williams’ parents’ house burned down, said the process requires coordination with the NCAA to allow the university to raise funds for the family.
“We’re working on it but it’s a process,” Cronin said. “Nothing ever goes quickly with the NCAA.”
The Davis family is extremely grateful for the UC community’s support, along with support from community organizations in Muncie.
“To me, it’s been very important,” Davis II said. “When you’re going through a traumatic experience, you need that kind of help and kind of guidance, because you’re mind isn’t where it usually is. It was almost crucial that there was people, individuals, that you could lean back on, that help support you, encourage you, those kinds of things. Very, very important.”
The fire started in the attic around 11 p.m. Tuesday. Aaron, Davis III’s brother, noticed certain lights and appliances were turning on and off.
“I noticed that some electricity was off and some lights were on and some weren’t and there was a bad smell throughout the house,” Aaron Davis said.
Aaron Davis quickly woke up his parents and they called the fire department. Crews had to cut a hole in the roof and the ceiling inside the house during the nearly two-and-a-half hour battle to put out the flames.
“It really puts things into perspective,” Aaron Davis said. “I was just glad everybody got out OK.”
The insurance company told the family it would take at least six months until the house — which Davis III lived in from the third grade until he left for college — is habitable. The family and insurance company are currently evaluating which possessions can be salvaged.
While the fire was contained to the attic, the smoke and debris damaged most of the possessions in the house.
Davis III said the insurance company promised it would cover nearly all the costs, but he’s not sure how true that is. They are currently working on entering a program that provides temporary housing to people displaced by disasters.
While the family is trying to stay positive, the possibility of losing everything still weighs on their minds.
“This is all I’ve been thinking about,” Davis II said.
Davis III did not find out about the fire until Wednesday morning, hours before he and his teammates took the court against Campbell University at Firth Third Arena.
Wednesday’s basketball game, which the Bearcats won 81-62, provided a brief but needed escape from Tuesday’s events.
“When you’re playing basketball, you’re in the zone,” Davis III said. “Nothing else matters.”
Since Wednesday, the sophomore guard said he has been calling his family two or three times a day to check up on them — an unusually high amount of phone calls, Davis II said.
“We don’t want him to worry about us,” Davis II said. “We want him to focus in on his studies and focus in on his responsibilities over there. It’s easy to say, but you worry about your parents; you worry about your family. He’s been calling and texting us a little more than normal, so I think it’s on his mind.”
Davis III said the important thing is to stay positive.
“You got to go through trials and tabulations that’s just part of life,” Davis III said. “You have to stay optimistic.”
But Cronin said Davis III has not been the same since the fire.
“He’s still shook up,” Cronin said. “He hasn’t been himself since the fire, and that’s understandable. Our job is to help him get through it and support him.”
The Davis family still doesn’t know what they are going to do for Thanksgiving, but the one thing they do know is that they have plenty to be thankful for.
“The people on TV would say the things don’t matter, it’s the lives that made it out, and now it rings true in my heart,” Davis II said. “The lives are the most important.”