By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
I used to joke that Rodney and I combined to score 40 points a game back in my senior year of high school. Of course he scored 32 every night it seemed.
Any point guard aspiring to all-conference honors would love to have had a two-guard like him to pass to. Take the inbounds pass, dribble up the floor, pass it to No. 10, then make sure the scorekeeper marked down another assist for me. Wash, rinse, repeat. Rodney could bomb away from long-distance -- the first year Ohio had adopted the three-point line, by the way -- but a quick burst allowed him to beat his man to the basket as well. The quintessential, multiple-threat scoring guard.
But an old friend shared the terrible news with me Tuesday that Rodney Cottrell, a 43-year-old friend whom I'd just gotten back in touch with a time or two the last few years, was found dead with two other people over the weekend, their bodies discovered in a car alongside a highway entrance ramp in some place called Union City, Ga., not far from Atlanta. Not shot, not stabbed, but definitely murdered.
Rodney lived in Montgomery, Ala., which is where I think he moved to Cleveland from before high school, when we were paired up as basketball teammates at a school not known for basketball.
Until that unforgettable senior year when he led our school to the most wins in a season that any of us with older siblings could have remembered back then.
Rodney earned all-state honorable mention recognition, if my memory serves me well. In addition to being a great basketball player, he was one of my best friends in high school. He was a black kid, and also in our crew was a dude from the Philippines, a redhead, an Indian, a Korean, a Russian and me. During summer breaks, we were the Richmond Mall's version of a Bill Cosby Jell-O commercial.
Just before I left Brooklyn for my four-month-long One Great Season tour in 2009, Rodney called me out of the blue. I have no idea how he got my number, but I was glad he did. I'm a curious guy so I usually pick up calls from unknown numbers. He and I talked about the old days back in Richmond Heights, playing ball and the Beastie Boys. They were just starting to get big back then, so we definitely sang a few verses of "Brass Monkey" after basketball wins. Then we went out to fight for our right to party.
We talked once or twice more as I made my trek around the country that autumn. I had no idea that in just a few short years I'd be dropping to my knees to ask God to comfort him and ease the pain of his loved ones.
Rodney, I hope you're OK up there. I'd like to think I'll see you again sometime.