In the early hours of Sunday, November 5th, 2017, the community lost two great young men – Christopher and Jonathan Baxter – to a tragic two-car crash. A speeding car crashed into their car as they crossed the intersection of Del Amo and Avalon. Their loss was felt throughout Southern California.
The Baxter brothers attended Verbum Dei High School in Watts, where they were standout athletes (basketball and track), and beloved members of the community. “The city lost two amazing young men, amazing young leaders,” Verbum Dei Principal Brandi Odom Lucas said. “I’ve been crying on and off all day.”
After graduating — Christopher in 2010 and Jonathan in 2012 — both Baxter brothers returned to campus, attending games and working with the current athletes, giving back to students who weren’t as fortunate as them to participate in off-school sports activities. One student told Odom how he remembered Jonathan Baxter — better known as JB — helping to calm his nerves when he put on the Verbum Dei uniform for the first time. “It’s going to be all right,” Jonathan told the student. “You couldn’t be around them longer than four minutes without cracking up hysterically. They were just so funny,” the principal said. “They came up here because they wanted to work with the younger students and teach the basic fundamentals. …They knew they were given chances and blessings that others may or may not have.” The Baxter Brothers also worked with mentally challenged teens training them in basketball. One of their former coaches – Charlie Torres had this to say, “There’s something about them, everyone they touched, they really touched them. They were everyone’s biggest fan, they never worried about themselves. Here are these guys who struggle for gas money and rotate their clothes between each other and all they care about is other people”
The Baxter Brothers were all about basketball – playing and coaching – and nowhere was there loss felt more than at the Drew League where the boys spent there summers playing in the elite league against some of the best players in the United States including many current and former NBA players. Nike Air West and Drew League coach Keion Kindred who was equally devastated, “Both were great individuals, the type of players every coach would want on their team. Great human beings who loved the game and everyone around them.”
Ken Baxter, the boy’s father and a 30-year LAPD veteran, was approached by many of his friends (some of whom were parents of players the Baxter Brothers coached) and asked what they could do to honor and create something that the Baxter Brothers would be proud of. Ken knew the Drew League had a special place in the hearts of his sons believed the Drew League Foundation would be a great way to honor the legacy of his sons. Ken began “networking” (a term his sons told him they were doing when Ken would ask them why they would drive to Orange County to coach basketball) and was able to raise funds for the Drew League Foundation that were used to provide college scholarships for graduates of high schools in the South Central area. Ken was so successful in his efforts that the Foundation was able to provide more scholarships than in years past and also provide future amounts for those students that continue their college education. The Drew League named the league divisions in the names of Christopher and Jonathan, a honor that extends only to those who have had an extraordinary impact on the community.
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