After a life-altering house fire, Bones Hyland draws strength from losses 

Freshman guard Bones Hyland was the highest-rated recruit since senior guard De'Riante Jenkins in 2016. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Ryan Grube, Staff Writer

When he smelled the smoke, Bones Hyland was lying on his bed, watching the Kansas-Duke Elite Eight game on his laptop and FaceTiming a teammate. That Sunday, which he spent with family and friends like any other, Hyland’s Wilmington, Delaware, home was engulfed in flames.

He had to act quickly as black smoke filled the house. Hyland was forced to jump out of his second-floor bedroom on March 25, 2018, as his grandmother and two baby cousins remained trapped inside.

Although a neighbor and his friend were able to catch the top half of Hyland’s body, his right knee slammed into the brick stairs below.

Hyland’s grandmother and cousins were rushed to nearby hospitals, where his “Mom Mom,” Fay, and cousin Maurice later died.

The months that followed were some of the toughest times for the freshman guard. Doctors feared his playing career could be over, and he couldn’t stop thinking about the losses to his family. He couldn’t even bring himself to attend his grandmother and baby cousin’s funerals.

Luckily for Hyland, he was only diagnosed with a torn patellar tendon. But, the six-month recovery process still took a toll on him.

“They [the doctors] came back into where I was in the room, and they said it was going to be six months, and I broke down,” Hyland said. “When they told me that, I broke into pieces because it was the game I loved.”

Hyland said his determination powered him through his recovery. The idea of not returning to his old form never crossed Hyland’s mind.

“Just being able to bounce back from that, and get back on the floor when people thought I was done, it proves a lot,” Hyland said.

Hyland’s first return to the court was a memorable one. He showed out in an event he hosted called Tressi Day, a streetball game named after his group of friends, at Prince’s Park in Wilmington.

Hyland called the experience a huge stress relief because the fans who attended weren’t expecting him to suit up.

“It felt really good out there. There were a lot of people who came out,” Hyland said. “It was just like a surprise — I came out and I played. It felt like I was myself again.” 

Hyland has used the tragedy to improve himself on and off the court. He said the fire and its aftermath gave him a better outlook on life.

“It made me become a better man because it helped me visualize things better, as far as what I was doing and what I was playing basketball for,” Hyland said. “It really helped me grow and become more mature, and just help me become a leader.”

A few months later, in September 2018, Hyland narrowed his list of colleges to seven. Hyland committed to the black and gold on June 4. Listed as the No. 64 ranked player in the 2019 class by 247Sports, Hyland became VCU’s highest-ranked recruit since senior guard De’Riante Jenkins in 2016. For Hyland, the decision to pick VCU was an easy one.

“I came on a visit, and it was just the love and the energy they had towards me,” Hyland said. “I had almost every school in the country contacting me, but VCU always stayed around and always stayed loyal to me.”

There’s no telling what Hyland’s ceiling is for the black and gold, or what his exact role will be for Rhoades this season. But, if one thing is for certain, Hyland will be playing for his grandmother and cousin whenever he is on the floor.

“I actually got a tattoo just as a reminder for them. Every time it feels as if I can’t go anymore, I look at my tattoo,” Hyland said. “That’s the reason who I am doing it for. They’re just always in my heart.”

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