Moment of violence brought D.C. hoops community together

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      Ten seconds.

      Another 10 seconds, maybe 20, and Blake Bozeman, in all likelihood, would have been out of the CRU lounge in northeast Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23. He would have gotten into his car and gotten on with his life. It was an emerging life.

      Bozeman played college basketball from 2011 to 2015 at Morgan State University for his father, Todd, the longtime college coach and NBA scout. Blake earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s degree in journalism from Morgan. He’d started a business, the Pivot Group, which helped student-athletes make the transition from athletics to the business world. He also worked in real estate. Blake married his longtime girlfriend, Tiera, in July. The couple had three children.

      But Blake didn’t get those extra 10 seconds.

      He was leaving a birthday party for one of his friends that September night when someone pulled out a gun just before midnight and fired inside the club, on its second floor. Four people were shot. Three of them suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

      Blake Bozeman, 31, was not among the fortunate. He was shot and died at a local hospital soon after being taken there. His death shattered his family and the local hoops community, most of which, it seems, knew and loved him.

      “It happened a block from my house,” Howard University basketball coach Kenny Blakeney said Tuesday. “I saw the police cars and everything moving in my neighborhood, not knowing what had happened — until I got the text message from Tyler Thornton the next morning.”

      Thornton is on Blakeney’s staff at Howard as an assistant coach and director of player development. He played AAU ball with Bozeman when they were younger. Blakeney had known Blake since he was 12 or 13. Blakeney and Duane Simpkins, the new head coach at American University, were teammates for two seasons at DeMatha Catholic High School, the historic basketball powerhouse in Maryland. The hoops tentacles in and around town run deep.

      Unfortunately, Bozeman’s murder cut through the brotherhood. The basketball community can only do so much. But it tried to at least call attention to everything Tuesday night at Howard.

      At Burr Gymnasium, Howard and American, longtime local rivals, played an exhibition game a week before each school begins its regular season to honor Bozeman, raise awareness about the spike in gun violence around D.C., and raise money for the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative. All ticket sales Tuesday went to the FSFSC, whose many programs address issues that local families who’ve been harmed by crime, struggled with homelessness or needed help staying connected with one another face every day.

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