A Plankinton teen was doing something that seems harmless, going to a waterpark to enjoy a beautiful summer day, but it took a tragic turn. After the events, Nick Lawson fought for months to get back to a place he loves, the basketball court.
This may look like an ordinary high school basketball practice, but for Nick Lawson the last few months have been anything but ordinary.
"I had no idea anything like that would ever happen," Senior Nick Lawson said.
Last June, Nick and three friends, including Logan Evans, were on their way to Wild Water West in Sioux Falls. Evans had just received a gun as a graduation present and had brought it along to show his friends.
"About two miles outside of Mitchell and he pulls the gun out on me. Everything just... I don't know what happened right away until I started looking around because it was just a loud ringing in my ears," Nick said.
But moments later, it all became frighteningly real.
"Then I see my girlfriend grab a towel and she starts to put it over my chest and soon as she does I just look down, the little blood spot and the hole in my shirt," Lawson said.
Logan, not knowing the gun was loaded had jokingly pulled the trigger. Nick was shot in the chest. His mother, Mary Lawson, was shopping in Mitchell when she received the phone call that Nick had been shot.
"Nervous, scared, crying. I didn't know, she didn't really say anything you know, just said he was shot and he was at the hospital. I didn't know what to expect when I got there," Nick's mother Mary Lawson said.
At the emergency room in Mitchell, she was told just how critical Nick's condition was. The bullet had gone all the way through him, shattering his liver in the process. Nick was air lifted to Sioux Falls, where he had eight different surgeries and spent three weeks in the hospital. The worst part of his experience? Being told by doctors that he wouldn't be able to play football his senior year.
"It was hard. At first I didn't want it to be real, but then after a little bit it kind of set in that I wasn't going to play," Nick said.
There was hope, however, for the standout athlete to be healed enough for the coming basketball season. But getting back on the hardwood wouldn't be easy. After so much time in a hospital bed, it would take months of hard training at the recreation center in Mitchell to fight his way on the court. Even his coach, Eric Denning, wasn't sure Nick would make it. Today, he's amazed at just how far his guard has come.
"I was really skeptical at first when he said that he was able to play because seeing him the way he was this summer and the long struggle that he had and all that stuff. I thought it was going to be real difficult for him to be productive this year," Head Coach Eric Denning said.
When the senior stepped back on the court to get into basketball shape he had a hard time catching his breath, which led to his coach making practice a little bit different than it had been in the past.
"It was a gradual process. We did more half court stuff in open gyms and just kind of told him when he had enough to get out of the drill, which is hard for him because last year I always kind of compared him to a hunting dog because he was so eager, whatever you asked him to do. he would be like 'Yes sir, yes sir," Denning said.
Nick's eagerness paid off.
"He's been really productive," Denning said.
Even though it's been a struggle, Nick has started every game for the Titans this year. He's also third on the team in minutes played. The team is off to a good start, which the senior attributes to his teammates.
"All the varsity guys. They're good friends with each other. We go out and have a fun time then we come out and battle for each other," Nick said.
His coach, however, is giving Nick the credit for being the entire team's inspiration.
"It's pretty hard for some other kid to complain about being tired or having a sprained ankle or something like that when Nick will just tell you, 'Hey I got shot," Denning said.
Nick admits his life is just getting back to normal. His mom is still nervous when she watches her son play, but she hopes his last year in high school will be a memorable one.
"It's his senior year. I want him to have a great senior year, not one where he's got to sit out and miss everything and it's good to see him out there," Mary said.
As for memories, Nick says he's learned a lot about life on the basketball court, but what happened in that car eight months ago has given him a life lesson he will never forget.
"Going to make me think of the consequences that could happen with certain things and not take life for granted," Nick Said.
Evans pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and is currently serving a five-month jail sentence for his part in the shooting.
The Plankinton area held a community auction in August to help the Lawson family with medical expenses. Nick and Mary both say they wouldn't have been able to make it through this event without the support from friends, family, and the community.