ETHS Pride feeder program looking up months after former player Dajae Coleman’s death

Middle school students participating in Evanston Township High School’s Pride feeder basketball program take on opponents from Lake Forest. The Pride program has experienced a record number of participants months after the death of former player Dajae Coleman in Sept. 2012.

Source: Evanston Pride Feeder Website

Middle school students participating in Evanston Township High School’s Pride feeder basketball program take on opponents from Lake Forest. The Pride program has experienced a record number of participants months after the death of former player Dajae Coleman in Sept. 2012.

Edward Cox, Reporter

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Ask any parent about Evanston Township High School’s feeder basketball program and they’ll say there’s more than the usual hustle and bustle at practice. There’s pride.

“Evanston is going to shine, Evanston is going on to states and will win,” parent Richard Kalaygian said.

The Pride feeder basketball program at ETHS has attracted 113 students this season, Pride President Michael Johnson said. This season’s participation, the highest since the program’s creation in 2011, comes as members and organizers continue to grapple with the September 2012 death of former Pride player Dajae Coleman.

“Part of what we are doing is to get kids acclimated into school,” said Johnson, who worked with the ETHS athletic director to establish the program.

Players in the feeder program now play against middle school students from other area feeder programs. Mike Ellis, the high school’s boys basketball head coach, said he hopes to establish connections with league teams and organize tournaments in which the Pride feeder team could participate.

Some of the feeder programs come from districts like Lake Forest and Waukegan, Johnson said. Pride feeder will be competing in an annual Waukegan tournament this weekend.

Andre Patrick, the program’s vice president, said Pride has “worked out beautifully,” calling last season a successful one.

“What we saw is a big part of the reason why we created the program which is to create a jump start for kids,” Patrick said.

In addition to teaching middle school students how to prepare for higher level basketball, the program also provides student athletes with structure and support, Johnson said.

After Coleman, an ETHS freshman who played with the Pride feeder program, was shot and killed in September, Johnson said the team embroidered jerseys with the message “DC3,” Dajae’s initials and the number he wore when he played on the Pride team. The ETHS boy’s basketball program wore red shoes and red jerseys because that was Coleman’s favorite color, Johnson said.

“Ultimately what came out of it was that the community opened its eyes … people kind of looked at it and said, ‘That could have been me,’” Johnson said of Coleman’s death. “We’ve taken on the strain of the community.”

Tuesday night, Patrick pulled out his iPhone, which had a picture of Coleman smiling in his orange Pride feeder uniform, the same picture on the program’s website. His last memory of Coleman was after he watched him hit a three-pointer at an Evanston Pride feeder basketball game.

Coaches also counseled team members on the Pride basketball team after the Coleman’s death, Johnson said.

“It hurt everyone in Evanston,” said ETHS freshman Immanuel Woodberry, a friend and teammate of Coleman on the Pride feeder team . “He was a good person … all he wanted to do was play basketball.”

Johnson said he is considering plans to introduce study sessions and tutoring into the Pride feeder program, which would give players a couple of hours to study.

“I don’t know if we will be happy if we don’t make a leap every year,” he said.

At the end of Tuesday’s two-hour practice, the seventh-grade basketball coach gathered his team for a countdown.

“One, two, three: homework!”

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