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Lynwood Grieves Loss of Killum : Aftermath: High school observes emotional minute of silence. Team votes to play its game Friday.

January 22, 1992|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lynwood High observed a minute of silence at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday for one of its graduates, Oregon State basketball guard Earnest Killum.

Weeping was the only audible sound.

Even Lynwood Coach Bill Lee couldn't hold back the tears as he mourned Killum, the 1990 Southern Section 5-AA player of the year who died Monday after suffering his second stroke in six months Friday.

Overcome with emotion while discussing Killum, Lee left his office and could be heard wailing in an adjoining bathroom.

"He was much more than a great player," Lee said of Killum. "He was very close to everyone around here, and he was close to me and my family. He was the type of person who would grow on you very, very fast.

"I racked my brain and I couldn't think of anyone who didn't like him. This is a multiracial campus with 3,500 students, and in my 14 years here, he was the most well-liked student I've ever encountered. Everybody not only liked Earnest, they loved him. It's amazing that anyone could have that much love in their heart."

Lee's players sobbed during an emotional team meeting, at which they decided to dedicate the rest of the season to Killum, who led Lynwood to the 1990 5-AA championship game. Several players used their T-shirts to wipe the tears from their eyes as they left the gym and walked to the administration building, where they were consoled by Principal Mickey Cureton, Vice Principal Hiram Peterson and Lee.

"There's nothing wrong with you crying," said Peterson, who had served as Killum's counselor. "If you feel like crying, you go ahead on and cry, because I've had my cry. If one of you guys are down, the others are going to have hold him up.

"I know everybody remembers Hank Gathers. I think everybody remembers how far that took Loyola Marymount (in the 1990 NCAA tournament). You guys know as well as I do that a lot of those teams that Loyola ended up beating in the NCAA, you know they shouldn't have beaten.

"I challenge each and every one of you. You can sit and feel real bad and mourn. And then you can pick yourself on up and try and go forward."

Killum's death hit the players hard.

"It hurt me to see him go," said guard Jamal Lawrence, who had played alongside Killum. "Why couldn't it be a drug dealer or somebody like that? Why did it have to be him?"

Lynwood considered canceling or postponing Friday's game against Compton Dominguez, its archrival, because the players were still mourning. Killum's brother, Marcus Boyd, plays for Dominguez.

"If it comes down to us having to forfeit, we'll do that," Lee said. "This is more important than a basketball game."

In the end, though, the team unanimously voted to play the game, saying Killum would have wanted it that way.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Oregon State will postpone Saturday's game against Washington State to allow the basketball team to attend Killum's funeral. The game will be rescheduled for Sunday or Monday in Corvallis, Ore.

Oregon State plans to play Thursday night's game against Washington.

"This is what Earnest would want," Coach Jim Anderson said.

The Oregon State players will wear the initials "EK" over their hearts for the rest of the season.

Center Scott Haskin read a statement from his teammates during an emotional news conference at Corvallis, Ore.

"You will always be a part of this university and you'll always be a part of this team," Haskin said. "We love you and we will miss you greatly.

"The Oregon State basketball team would like to send its deepest condolences to the Killum family and friends," Haskin continued. "If there is anything we can do for you, please let us know. As for E.K., he was more than just a basketball player, he was a friend to everyone he came in contact with."

This is the second tragedy to have struck down a former Lynwood High athlete this month. Football player Melvin Johnson, 21, a two-time All-Southern Section offensive lineman at Lynwood, was shot and killed in a domestic dispute on Jan. 2 in Fresno. Johnson's funeral was held at the Lynwood auditorium because there was no local church large enough for the service.

"We're contemplating some sort of psychological counseling for the guys because Earnest meant so much to them," Lee said. "He never failed to call the guys, two or three times a week, to encourage them about their academics."

Cureton, the principal, said the school plans to establish a $500 scholarship in Killum's honor. It will be given to the Lynwood basketball player with highest grade-point average.

"He was a typical student who started off slow in school and didn't take his education seriously," Cureton said.

"But as a junior and senior he turned himself around academically. He was a good example of what education is all about. He didn't pass the SAT but he maintained a 3.0 grade-point average."

Killum was academically ineligible to play at Oregon State last season. But he said in a recent interview that he had raised his GPA to 3.5 this season.

Former Lynwood basketball coach Bill Notley, who retired from coaching when Killum graduated, took Killum's death hard.

"After (Killum's) family called, my wife and I just got in the car and drove down the coast," Notley said. "It just seems so tragic and so unfair.

"I felt very close to Earnest. . . . I would have felt privileged if he was my son. I coached there for 32 years and made contact with a lot of kids and hopefully touched some of their lives.

"But he was just special. And he would have been special even if he would have been a kid at the end of the bench."

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