Dozens cried as hundreds more recited the Lord's Prayer during a vigil to honor 15-year-old Devon Conwell on the basketball court at the City of Kent Recreation Center.
Devon, a sophomore at Theodore Roosevelt High School, collapsed during an Amateur Athletic Union team practice at the Pinnacle Sports facility in Twinsburg on Wednesday.
"We were thinking in school today that every day we saw him here," said Egypt Pampley, 16, who was one of the five students who organized the memorial. "Everyone drives by and sees him playing basketball."
Kenya Daniels, 17, Micayla Moore, 16, Emperous Moss, 16, and Mi'chel Saunders, 17, helped put together the vigil that attracted hundreds of friends, family and members of the community.
"We expected about 90 people. It doesn't start until 7:30, but they started showing up at 5:30," Pampley said. "We can't believe how many people are here."
As the vigil began, the group gathered in a circle on the court around the words "Devon we (heart) u!," that were written in chalk and covered with candles.
"His personality was out of this world," said Stacee Purnell, 19. Friends standing around her smiled and agreed, adding that what they'll miss the most about Devon was his smile.
"It's going to be weird going down the halls and not hearing his laugh," Pampley said.
"He was always smiling," Moss said. "You couldn't have a bad day around him."
Luke Mcintosh, 14, a freshman at Roosevelt and one of Devon's best friends, recalled something Devon said a couple of days ago that he said seems surreal after everything that has happened.
"He told me to keep my grades up and focus on school," Mcintosh said. "He said he was grateful for everything he had. It was just crazy that he said those things a couple days before this."
Bob Murray, track coach at Stanton Middle School and Roosevelt, said he knew Devon when he played youth sports.
"He was a gentle giant," he said. "That's the Devon I remember. He was easy-going and a happy-go-lucky kid."
Devon played football and basketball for Roosevelt. Demetrius Wright, who is friends with Devon's parents, said he last saw Devon Wednesday at the basketball court in front of the recreation center.
"He had so much potential," Wright said. "He was a well-rounded young man. He was a good example for young kids. He acted like a big brother to them."
As people lit one candle after another, others did the best to comfort one another after the death of a young man who will be remembered as a gentle, happy person who was adored by the many people who knew him.
"This is a big loss for everyone," Pampley said. "We're thankful everyone came out to remember him and show our love for him."
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