Family, friends remember former basketball standout who drowned on Chattahoochee kayak trip

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A memorial will be held this weekend for a former Cobb County high school basketball standout who tragically drowned during a kayaking trip on the Chattahoochee River.

Khalil Hardison, 21, a 2019 graduate and member of the Wheeler High School men’s basketball team, tragically drowned on August 14 while trying to swim across the river to a popular diving rock.

Hardison’s mother, Natashia Thompson, and father, Larry Thompson, who is also the head coach of Wheeler, spoke exclusively with Channel 2 Action News on Monday.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

“They were having a good time and just smiling and enjoying the weather,” said Natashia Thompson who Facetimed with Khalil about 30 minutes before he drowned. “And then for us to get a phone call from our nephew. He was just hysterical.”

Thompson says her eldest nephew attempted to rescue her son, but the current was too strong.

“The current was too high and strong at the time and pulled him under,” she added.

Khalil’s father said they were stunned to learn that there were no signs warning the public about the potentially dangerous strong currents.

“We’ve done research since this happened and discovered multiple drownings in that area,” he said. “Not blaming anyone, but there’s gotta be some instructions, guidelines or some type of warning.”

Khalil’s family said that on the day of their son’s drowning, authorities recovered the body of another drowning victim.


Channel 2 Action News filed an open records request with Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services, looking to get the exact number of drownings this year, but as of Monday afternoon, our request had not been completed.

According to Channel 2 Action News archives, this is the third drowning in the Chattahoochee since June.

After graduating in 2019, Khalil enrolled at Tennessee State University in Nashville, but he recently left school to pursue a professional basketball career.

“Just one of the nicest and sweetest young men you could ever meet,” his father said. “He didn’t have an enemy in the world.”

“He was a late bloomer,” he added. ”He was going to figure out a way to be around the game whether he was playing or coaching.”

Khalil’s cousin, Isaiah Collier, who is considered by many college recruiting experts as the number one high school prospect in the country, was with Khalil when he drowned and used his Instagram page to express his heartbreak.

“Words can’t even explain how much I miss you right now dawggg,” he wrote. “Spending everyday together since birth has been some of the best days of my life!”

The post described how the two considered each other brothers.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do without u twin but u wouldn’t want me cryin’ right now and dragging around so I’m trying to stay strong for you brotha,” he wrote.

The memorial service for Khalil Hardison is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27 at 10 a.m. in the Wheeler High School basketball arena. If you would like to support his family, you can donate here.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]