Samuel Freeman III, a Texas pastor who delivered the eulogy Monday at the funeral for his nephew Keyshawn Tyrell Gregory, said the slain teen dreamed of playing in the NBA one day.
He encouraged young people to pursue their dreams – dream big – and he challenged their parents and other adults to “step up” and encourage young people so that their dreams could become a reality.
“Keyshawn is gone, but his dream is still living inside of us,” Freeman said to several hundred mourners at Poplar Springs Christian Church in South Raleigh.
Keyshawn, known as “Shawn” among friends and family, was one of three people riding in a car Aug. 8, when words were exchanged between one of the car’s occupants and people outside a home at 1401 Beauty Ave. Police say someone then fired at the car, hitting Keyshawn. He was 13.
Keyshawn would have started eighth grade this fall at Martin Middle School and was looking forward to trying out for point guard with the school basketball team.
Police have charged Malik Armein Jones, 19, with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. Two other teens – Jamal Christopher Howie, 19, and Jonathan Dejesus Chavez, 18 – were charged with one count each of accessory after the fact of murder for allegedly helping Jones afterward.
Keyshawn’s family members placed a picture of Keyshawn on the front cover of the funeral obituary. He’s standing near mid-court at a local gym, wearing a red basketball uniform and holding a ball. Among the mourners Monday afternoon were his teammates with the Swish City Magic basketball team, who wore their black and blue team jerseys and served as pallbearers for their friend.
During his eulogy, Freeman repeated an often-heard memory of Keyshawn carrying his basketball everywhere because “basketball was a way of life for him,” a way to achieve success as an adult. Freeman said soon after picking up the game Keyshawn told him that one day he was going to beat him at basketball.
“Oh yeah?” his uncle jokingly replied. Freeman told his nephew beating him in the court was going to take a lot of work and a lot of praying.
Freeman said no one could ever say why such a wonderful child was taken from his family and community at the age of 13 and said those who knew and loved him should try to remember the joy he brought to their lives.
Then the pastor looked upward.
“I hope you’re practicing up there, Keyshawn,” Freeman said, “because when I get up there I’m taking you to the hoop.”
Freeman then left the pulpit and walked down a church aisle sobbing. He was followed by Keyshawn’s teammates and family.
Outside the church, Brandi Love, Keyshawn’s second-grade teacher, pressed her hand against the window of the hearse that carried his coffin, lingered and then slowly backed away. Tears flowed from her eyes.
“That was not what I wanted for Keyshawn,” Love said about the shooting that took his life. “I wanted to see those dreams come true for Keyshawn.”