Tragedy struck Daniel Murphy High School as DeShawn Newton, a 14-year old promising freshman who played on the basketball team, died suddenly on April 26 after playing in a tournament in Grand Prairie, Texas
While sitting on the bench during his team’s game at the Next Level Ballers Tournament in the 15-and-under division, Newton, who would have turned 15 on May 10, collapsed due to what appeared to be a seizure and as paramedics tried to revive him, he was pronounced dead at 12:06 p.m. at Arlington Medical Center.
Newton’s mother and sister, Deanna, who were watching him play basketball for the first time in over a year, had their joy turn to horror as they watched the scene unfold before them.
Deanna then phoned her father Duane in Inglewood to relay the terrible news and a close-knit family now grieved as one of their own lost his life while playing the game he loved.
Struggling to come to grips with his own grief, Duane Newton faced the difficult task of explaining to his 10-year old son Devin that his big brother had died, initially withholding that it was while playing the game they both loved.
“He was destroyed,” Newton said, “He didn’t play in any of his [basketball] games this weekend. You wouldn’t believe something [like this] would happen to DeShawn.”
The cause of death won’t be determined for another 30 to 45 days due to the autopsy report but Newton indicated that his son had suffered from asthma.
The shockwaves of the news spread to Murphy High School where sadness and disbelief replaced the joy of starting another week of classes.
“He was like a son to me,” head coach Harold Jones said, his voice choked up in disbelief.
Jones’ 18-year-old son Quentin, a senior who played at Murphy before transferring to Crenshaw High School, had spoken to Newton the night before his passing and in that final conversation, he said Newton was particularly anxious to play the next day.
“He was really excited to play in front of his mother because he hadn’t seen her in a year,” Quentin Jones said.
Now that joy is replaced with “shock” and “hurt” as the friend he described as “his closest in the world” is no longer around to tell jokes and share basketball stories.
The same could be said for the rest of his teammates, a self-described family where Newton and fellow freshmen Temjae Singleton and Ryan Oliver were lovingly seen as the little brothers.
“He had so much going for him,” said Jeffrey Johnson, a senior. “He reminded me of myself when I was younger.”
Most of the players echoed Quentin Jones’ comments about Newton always having a smile on his face and always appearing upbeat. They called him “Iceman,” a nickname given by his father because he always ate ice, or “Country,” a reference to him being originally from Texas.
A few of the players will accompany Jones and his son to Newton’s home town of Mount Pleasant, Texas, where his funeral will be held Saturday. He will be buried his favorite North Carolina jersey, the school that he dreamed of playing for.
The talented freshman, who moved to California two years ago with his father, was already getting letters from schools such as Arizona and USC, who had invited him to their Elite basketball camp when he was only in eighth grade.
At Murphy, the 5-foot-11 guard made an immediate impact, leading the basketball team and the Santa Fe League in assists while being selected to the all-league first team.
In what would be his last high school game for Murphy, he finished with six points and 15 assists in a 97-93 playoff loss to Yucca Valley. His 6.7 assists per game ranked third in the state among freshman.
He was well on his way on following the footsteps of his father, who played for Cleveland High School in Reseda and currently serves as a coach of a girls traveling team, and his sister Deanna, a high school junior who is being recruited by Pepperdine and Bucknell.
“Basketball was DeShawn’s whole life,” Duane Newton said, adding that it was a sport that bound the entire family together.
Newton was also stellar in the classroom as he carried a 4.0 grade point average at La Tijera Elementary/Middle School, earning him the Student-Athlete of the Year Award from the Inglewood Unified School District. At Murphy, he continued his academic excellence with a 3.8 grade point average.
But the tragedy is not just the loss of another young athlete barely two months after the death of Los Angeles High School running back Jamiel Shaw. It is that Newton’s death could have perhaps been prevented had paramedics arrived sooner.
According to reports, Newton laid on the floor for approximately 10 to 20 minutes before help arrived and during that time, a defibrillator was not used as he still had a pulse according to what was told to Next Level tournament coordinator Wes Grandstaff.
In the four years that he has run this and other tournaments through Next Level, this is the first death Grandstaff has experienced. As a precaution, Grandstaff took out a $100,000 accidental medical expense benefit policy through Florida-based USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) Insurance.
However, that number did not appear sufficient to Duane Newton, who along with Jones have taken out much larger policies for smaller scale tournaments they have hosted in the past. While he was upset, he was resigned to direct his energy to prevent future situations from being handled in this manner.
“No amount of money can bring my son back,” Newton said, dismissing any thoughts of a possible lawsuit, “But I’m going to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anybody else’s children or any more of mine.”
In lieu of donations, a car wash is being planned this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bourbon Street Fish on 601 S. Prairie Ave. to raise funds for the family. A family friend, Bill Hankins, is setting up a trust fund in Newton’s memory through Hoop Sessions, which is Duane Newton’s girls’ traveling team.
Even though he was struggling to find his thoughts at times, Newton tried to take an optimistic look at his son’s final trip home.
“Maybe God sent him to Texas for a reason,” he said. That way, he said, his mother and sister could see him one last time and marvel at how much better he had become.
He went on to add, “As a parent, make sure you tell your kids you love them because you never know what’s going to happen.”