Tom Rose began to hear rumors July 5 that 17-year-old John Crowder had been shot in a Northeast Baltimore City yard.
The Our Lady of Mount Carmel boys basketball coach then received a call from a player on his team. Crowder, a blossoming basketball star at the Essex school, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“I was in shock,” Rose told The Catholic Review a day later. “I think I’m still in shock.”
Crowder attended Towson Catholic High School during the 2008-2009 school year. When that school closed, he transferred to Mount Carmel and received attention from major college basketball programs. The would-be junior forward grew to 6 foot 8 and 215 pounds.
Rose said Crowder could score, rebound and pass well for a big man.
More importantly, Rose said, Crowder was maturing.
“He transitioned well from Towson Catholic and within a week he was acclimated,” Rose said. “He was the type of kid who left an impression on you.”
Tributes and messages were posted on Crowder’s Facebook page, along with videos and photos. A separate Facebook tribute page, called “John Crowder R.I.P.,” attracted more than 1,100 supporters in a day.
Photos showed Crowder shining on the court and hugging classmates.
Mount Carmel principal Kathleen Sipes, athletic director Mike Naunton and Rose gathered with the basketball team after Crowder’s death in an emotional meeting. Some teammates then visited Crowder’s grandmother with Rose.
“He really valued the relationships he had with his teammates,” Sipes said. “You have a healthy, happy teenager and then you don’t. It’s always difficult talking to students about it. The injustice of it is just so blatant.”
Sipes said Crowder had been living with a cousin, Brodie Crowder, in Pennsylvania after a troubled childhood in Baltimore City. The cousin had been assisting with the basketball team and providing a fatherly presence.
John Crowder’s mother, according to reports, died of cancer when he was young. His father was not around and both of his brothers had been shot. A friend had also been murdered.
“I think he did everything he could to make a better situation for himself,” Rose said.
A story in the Dallas Morning News two years ago said Crowder had moved to Dallas in order to escape the dangers of Baltimore.
Crowder reportedly told the Dallas Morning News, “My family, they live in like a war zone.”
Rose said Crowder would occasionally talk about his troubled past and felt like he had nothing to hide.
He appeared, for the most part, to be on the right track at Mount Carmel.
A Baltimore Sun story said John Crowder “got in trouble” at Brodie Crowder’s house recently and went to live with his grandmother again in Baltimore.
Brodie Crowder told The Sun, “He was attracted to the streets.”
Rose and Sipes said the school was waiting for Crowder’s family to make funeral arrangements before organizing its own tributes, including a possible Mass. The school’s campus minister is meeting with students as well.
“I can’t emphasize enough that the kid left an impression on you,” Rose said. “It was always a good impression.”