Nibra White always had a soft spot in his heart for Dajae Coleman.
The Evanston boy, whom he started coaching in basketball in sixth grade, always came to practice ready to play, ready to learn and ready to listen to what the coach had to stay.
But Dajae, whom his friends, including White, call Dae Dae, also came with the most enthusiastic eyes you could imagine, White said — eyes that said he was a good kid who was ready to play and have some fun.
“Those eyes, they just made you fall in love with him,” White said. “He was just a good kid.
“I really love that kid. He’s just a kid who wanted some skinny jeans, some Jordans and a haircut to impress the girls,” White said. “He wasn’t into drugs or anything like that. He was just a normal 14-year-old kid having fun.”
Though White was fond of his protégé, he never knew exactly how much he meant to Dajae.
Then Dajae died suddenly Saturday night, shot on the streets of Evanston while walking home from a party with friends.
Shortly after his death, Evanston Township High School – where Dajae was a freshman – released a belief statement the boy had just written for class.
In the statement, which his family said could be released to the public, he talks about his love for his family, and he also mentions White.
He writes about the positive impact his coach had on him while in the F.A.A.M. middle school basketball league.
“My coach’s name is Nibra White, and he has a large impact on my life,” Dajae wrote. “We grew very close, so close that I spent the night over his house several times. He has a son that is a copule years older than me. Nibra improved by basketball skills a lot, he trained me every chance he got to, throughout my middle school years. Basketball is not the only thing he helped me with. If he knows I need something, he’ll do his best to get it. For example, last fall I needed some more basketball shoes. He noticed I had some old ones, so he asked me if I needed more. He bought some for me the next day. I give him a lot of respect for his great effort.”
(Click on the PDF icon above to read the full essay.)
Reading that essay in the wake of Dajae’s death, just tore White apart, he said.
“It’s too much,” he said. “It’s impossible to understand why this happened.”
And it's impossible to understand why it happened to such a good kid who was headed for good things in his life, he said.
White said he recently lost his father, with the funeral this past Saturday — the same night Dajae was killed. His father was 74, he said. Death at that age is hard, but a little more acceptable than for a 14-year-old boy. The death of an innocent 14 year old is totally unacceptable, he said.
“He was always polite and respectful. He was like a throwback kid,” White said. “He wasn’t causing trouble. He just did normal kid things. I don’t understand it.”
To help honor Coleman, whom White calls a friend of all, he has established a fund that will benefit his family.
The goal is to raise $12,000. You can donate by going here.