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When Ava Jones was severely injured last summer, Jeff Walz stepped up
Louisville coach reached out to Lisa Bluder, and got the wheels turning for transportation for Jones’ grandmother
SEATTLE — In the sad, shocking, immediate aftermath of the Ava Jones incident last summer, one of the first calls Lisa Bluder received was from Jeff Walz.
Jones, a gifted forward from Nickerson, Kan., committed to play women’s basketball at the University of Iowa on July 3.
Two days later, Jones and her family were in Louisville, Ky., for an AAU tournament. When they were near their hotel, looking for a late supper, a driver under the influence — he later admitted to having taken hydrocodone — collided with the family on the sidewalk.
“It was just such a terrible situation that took place during that big basketball weekend,” said Walz, head coach at Louisville.
“When we heard it and saw what took place, I reached out to Lisa and just asked if there's anything that we can do at all. She said, ‘I'll figure some things out,’ because they were still trying to figure out what's going on, what's going to happen.”
Walz didn’t know the Jones family. But he had a friendly relationship with Bluder, the head coach at Iowa.
Bluder got back to Walz a few days layer with a request: Jones’ grandmother had flown to Louisville and needed transportation.
“He provided a car for the family to use at no expense, and it was immediate,” Bluder said. “It was not even a thought.”
Walz said, “It took one phone call to one of our boosters and it was, like, ‘It's a done deal. Do not worry about it.’
“They have a car dealership and within 10 minutes they had her a car.”
Three days after the accident, Jones’ father, Trey, died of his injuries. Her mother, Amy, suffered 21 broken bones and a stroke, and has undergone more than 15 surgeries.
Ava suffered a brain injury, a broken collarbone and massive damage to both knees. She signed with Iowa in November, and has a scholarship awaiting her, whether or not she ever plays for the Hawkeyes.
⧉ Related article: Iowa basketball signee Ava Jones: A story of heartbreak and hope
Bluder and Walz will be bench combatants when third-ranked Iowa (29-6) meets Louisville (26-11), with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Tipoff is 8 p.m. (CT) at Climate Pledge Arena.
“Sure, we're all trying to beat each other and you're trying to advance, you're trying to win, but the end of the day it's just about being a good person and doing what's right,” Walz said.
Bluder won’t forget Walz’s actions during those awful first days in July.
“I just think he's a really good guy,” she said. “That speaks volumes about a person when they're helping you when you're in need like that.”