PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Grand Canyon University is graduating its biggest class ever Monday and Tuesday, celebrating in person again, in the basketball arena. The biggest applause on day one, came for the family of former Lopes basketball star Oscar Frayer. His mom, Bionca Sparrow, and nine-year-old nephew, E.J. Harris, accepted the diploma on behalf of Frayer, who died in a car crash just three days after the school's first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The entire arena at GCU stood and cheered when they were introduced.
"It's touching, watching that," said Lopes basketball coach Bryce Drew. "We didn't tell people what to do, but for families coming from California to the Midwest, for them all to stand up for his name being announced is pretty special."
"He was a really good basketball player," said GCU President Brian Mueller. "He played with a lot of passion. But it was his love for this community that people were responding to in that moment."
Oscar Frayer, 23, died two days after the team returned from competing in the NCAA Championship Tournament.
More than 28,000 students are graduating from the university this spring, but it's hard to imagine any who made more of an impact on their peers than Frayer.
Classmate Grace Schreyer walked across the state with a picture of Frayer on her graduation cap.
"Oscar was a hue part of my four years here at GCU," she said. "He was a big brother to me and took care of me like a little sister. And so, this graduation was really important for him to be here with me."
"He had an incredibly charismatic, bright smile," said Mueller. "I would see him on campus and he would always ask me how I was doing, and I would say, 'Oscar, I'm supposed to ask you how you're doing.' Everywhere you go on this campus, you meet people that he impacted."
Frayer, who missed a basketball season while academically ineligible, earned all A's and B's this year, to become the first male on his mom's side to earn a college degree.
"When I first got here, and I talked to him about possibly coming back to GCU, his whole motivation was to get his degree, was for today," Drew said. "He kept telling me throughout the year, 'hey, I promised my momma I'm going to get my degree.'"
Drew, as well as several coaches and GCU players, were present for the commencement ceremony. He says there is certainly still sadness around the loss of Frayer, but the team was there for a celebration.
Frayer, who was from Oakland, California, was in his senior year at the school.
"You think about legacy," said Drew. "And the legacy now that he has started in his family, and the legacy now that's going down to his nine-year-old nephew, with the course of his life being changed, his life needs to be celebrated."
Mueller said Monday that Grand Canyon University has offered full scholarships to Frayer's four young nieces and nephews, who lost their uncle and their mother in the car accident.