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February 23, 1995|SEAN WATERS

FORTSON REMEMBERED

Davy Fortson never quit even when time was about to run out.

As a junior at Dorsey High, Fortson made a three-point shot with two seconds left that lifted the Dons to an 86-83 win over cross-town rival Crenshaw.

As a senior, Fortson led Dorsey to an overtime victory against North Hollywood and a comeback win against Washington High.

As long as Fortson had a basketball in his hands, his teams had a chance to win.

Now the ball has been taken out of Fortson's hands for good.

Fortson, 19, was shot and killed Friday night at Tommy's World Famous Hamburgers on the corner of Pico and Lincoln boulevards in Santa Monica. He had become involved in an altercation and was allegedly shot by another teen-ager.

The incident took place less than an hour after Fortson scored 23 points to lead Santa Monica College to an 89-71 victory over Glendale that clinched the Western State Conference title for the Corsairs.

Confronted with death, Fortson fought to survive.

Robert Ross, Fortson's cousin, was one of six people who went to the hamburger stand with Fortson. All six said Fortson avoided a confrontation before he was forced to defend himself. When the fatal shot was fired, everyone ran, including Fortson, who died half a block from the stand.

"I held his hand and he wasn't breathing for 30 seconds to a minute," Ross said. "I started telling him breathe, breathe. He took one deep breath and his whole torso came off the ground. He tried to fight it, but you can see everything in his body slowing down."

Fortson was pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center.

By Saturday morning, the tragic news about Fortson's shooting death had reached friend Robert Foster, a former Fairfax standout who is playing at Midland (Tex.) Junior College.

"I remember telling Davy to keep his head straight," Foster said. "I can't believe they took his life for an unjust cause. A guy who pulls a gun instead of fighting is a punk. That's how punks fight."

The news also reached Fortson's former Dorsey backcourt partner Kenya Wilkins, who is a starter for Oregon.

"Davy's dream was to play basketball and get out of Los Angeles," Wilkins said. "He was so close to fulfilling that dream."

Sam Minor coached Fortson from eighth to 12th grades on B-Ball, an Amateur Athletic Union team. Minor said that Fortson was once a temperamental youth, but that changed as he grew older.

"When he was in the eighth grade, if you said Davy's name wrong, you were in for a fight," Minor said. "He had a short temper. But he matured quite a bit."

Said Wilkins: "He always believed in being true to his friends. He would fight for them if he had to."

But this was one fight Fortson tried to avoid, according to friends who witnessed the incident.

"One of the main reasons Davy defended himself was because we agreed that we would fight for each other," Ross said. "If you had a fight with me, you had a fight with Davy."

Fortson was the leading scorer for the Corsairs, averaging 23 points a game. He was expected to be named the Western State Conference Southern Division player of the year. He was one of the top shooting guards in the nation when he played at Dorsey but was not heavily recruited by major Division I schools because he failed to meet minimum NCAA requirements to be eligible to compete as a freshman. Nonetheless, Cal State Fullerton offered Fortson a scholarship.

Fortson, who was selected to the City Section 4-A Division all-star team, chose to attend Santa Monica College because he wanted to prove he could excel in the classroom as well as on the basketball court. By spring, Fortson was set to earn an associate of arts degree.

Fortson also dreamed about playing in the NBA. His family, coaches and friends shared that dream.

"Davy wanted to be a ballplayer and I wanted to be a rapper," Ross said. "He called me 'Mr. Sandman' and he told me he wanted front-row seats when I made it. I would call him 'Little Sandman' and I told him that I wanted courtside seats."

Services for Fortson are scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Figueroa Church of Christ in South-Central. A memorial rally was scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Santa Monica College.

The Corsairs will play Fullerton College at 7 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the California Community College State Regional playoffs.

"Maybe it's best he died this way," said Fortson's mother, Rochelle Wilkerson. "If he was shot and paralyzed, that would have been more devastating. Basketball was his heart. His life. If you take that away, he would have died a slow death."

CENTURY MARK

Pacific Hills Coach John Bobich won his 100th game when the Bruins defeated Lee Vining, 89-48, Feb. 14 in the first round of the Division V-A playoffs.

Bobich, The Times' 1994 Westside Coach of the Year, guided the Bruins to a 12-11 record during the season.

The Bruins beat Laguna Blanca, 84-63, Friday. Simon Fani, who had 25 points, made six three-point shots in the third quarter to lead Pacific Hills.

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