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Rodney Cottrell: Saying goodbye to an old friend

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.

Check Out This Picture Of Rodney

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.

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Reader Comments (3)

Wise, I'm speachless, that was beautifully written, thank you so much for sharing this. Im sure Rodney is at peace and smiling down on you with a tear in his eye. Your a good friend.

January 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Gacey

Dear John,

Words can not express how much we Thank You for taking the time to even mention Rodney Cottrell and sharing your fond memories of a really 'nice guy'. You called him "an old friend" 'humanized' Rodney to everyone that never knew him. It is very easy for people to say unkind things about someone they never knew who died so suddenly and tragically for unknown reasons. We are still in shock, hurting and mourning. We appreciate your article so wonderfully written. We are grateful that his body was found so that we could have closure, say goodbye and 'know where he is'. We pray for so many families that have missing loved ones. They never really get to have closure, say goodbye or 'know' where their loved is. We are blessed and encouraged by your wonderful article. Rodney was a person, he had family, he was liked, loved and is remembered. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are a good friend. He is up there, at peace, smiling down at us...and beaming that you took the time in this fast paced world, to "say goodbye to an old friend". God Bless. Humbly, on behalf of the entire Cottrell Family, THANK YOU!

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