So Cal basketball players/trainers Chris and Jonathan Baxter, brothers, tragically and suddenly died early Sunday morning. Their deaths shook Arizona Basketball players who knew and adored them.
This is news you never want to wake up to, two inseparable brothers, Jonathan (22) and Chris Baxter (24), died suddenly in a car accident early Sunday morning. The two Southern California basketball players and trainers were brothers of the closest kind. They had ties to current and former Arizona Basketball players and managers.
The two young men had just driven out of a McDonald’s parking lot in Carson, Ca. They started their drive down Del Amo Blvd crossing Avalon Blvd when out of nowhere, a guy in a black car t-boned the two as they drove through the intersection. Jonathan (JB) and Chris passed on at the scene of the crash.
The irony here is that first on the scene were two brothers who felt helpless and were deeply affected by the whole experience. They tried to save the Baxters and the man who hit them, but it was too late.
Ken Baxter lost both of his sons. He has no other children. The outpouring of condolences has been immense. Coach Charlie Torres scheduled a memorial basketball game for noon, Tuesday, Nov 7 at MAPs where the brothers best friend will present dad with his sons Drew League Jersey’s.
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The more I talk to people close to these special young men, the more I realize that although extremely heart-breaking, it is fitting that these two bright lights went to heaven together. They leave behind a father who devotes his life to keeping the people of Los Angeles safe working for the Los Angeles Police Department.
JB and Chris Baxter played in the Drew League for Coach Charlie Torres on team ICEO (Intelligence, Concentration, Effort, and Order). Coach Torres heads up ICEO Training along with Shea Frazee, and the two put on the Stanley Johnson Basketball Camp. We spoke to Coach Charlie this morning, and he had nothing but wonderful things to say about his two sidekicks.
Klay and Mychel Thompson (those Thompson’s) also knew the brothers. Torres also spoke to them about the Baxter brothers.
JB and Chris were working with mentally challenged teens training them in basketball, “There’s something about them, everyone they touched, they really touched them. They were everyone’s biggest fan, they never worried about themselves. Here are these guys who struggle for gas money and rotate their clothes between each other and all they care about is other people.”
The Baxter brothers were ICEO Training Interns. Torres trains former Arizona players like Stanley Johnson, Derrick Williams, Aaron Gordon and Solomon Hill. Torres, who was present at Johnson’s commitment announcement, spent an hour reminiscing with Stanley about the Baxters. They all played together in Charlie’s Free Hoop Society, a pickup game that players from all over Southern California came to play in. Chris and JB frequently had to get a ride from Watts to Anaheim to play with Johnson and others like eighth-grader Ira Lee.
Torres told us that former Arizona Basketball managers now working for USCB Coach Pasternak also knew the Baxters. Andrew Payne, John Seavey, and David Miller were a part of the So Cal basketball scene and spent summers with the Baxters. Josh Pasternack, while at Arizona, used to give Payne extra or slightly used Arizona gear to give the Baxters who didn’t have much in the way of workout clothes.
“One of the best days at the gym was when Andrew Payne came in with his whole trunk, and back seat of the car was full of Arizona gear, and he just emptied out the trunk and gave it all to JB and Chris,” said Torres. The brothers felt like it was Christmas and it warmed Torres’ heart.
Derrick Williams trains with Torres and the two remain close and were ironically out together in Los Angeles the night the Baxter brothers passed on. The three were on facetime earlier in the day at around 1:15 am, laughing at jokes that were implied before words could come out. The three talked all the time, and that last conversation will never be forgotten by Torres as just an hour later the two were gone. The crash happened around 2:24 am.
Torres shared with us that the brothers were inseparable, and partially because they shared a car. The brothers had attended Verbum Dei High School in Watts and played for another Drew League legend Kevin Lewis (K-Lew) who coached them and gave Torres his start in The Drew.
We also spoke to Nike Air West and Drew League coach Keion Kindred who was equally devastated, “Both were great individuals, the type of players every coach would want on their team. Great human beings who loved the game and everyone around them.”
The awful news went global fast. One of the Baxter’s ICEO teammates Charles Hinkle, who is playing in the National Basketball League of Canada on team Edge, just heard about the loss. He had this to say to his former teammates:
To JB – Your positive energy was contagious both on and off the court. Your determination to be the perfect player on the court translated to a perfect friend off. You always worked to improve your jump-shot which was evident during the last game in the Drew League this past summer. In the final minutes of a heated exchange between Team ICEO and a team of two 1st round future draft picks, your 3-point shot was huge to help solidify the win. What I remember most was your celebration after. I’ll never forget the joy that always came with your presence.
To Chris – Every time we worked out together, you brought an eagerness to learn and more importantly to win. Your cerebral approach to the game was extremely similar to your idol. Your competitive nature was so inspiring. There are certain people who cross our paths, where you are sure would reach success in life and you were that guy. I’ll always cherish the bond that we had. Thank you for everything.
TEAM ICEO FOREVER
Laurian Watkins is the head coach of the California Sea Kings (professional team), he went to school with JB and Chris’s dad. Chris was about to sign with the Sea Kings and play for Watkins who wanted to give him a start in his professional career. “Everything they did was together,” said Watkins, “You would never see one without the other. My son signed with Cal, he’s a freshman, when the news hit social media, I went to get him. Chris is on his signing party video, he was always encouraging, touching kids and never had any negativity, never had something bad to say about people. They just kept grinding.”
Watkins son Deschon Winston is a freshman point guard at Cal Berkley. The impact of losing these two just keeps coming for Watkins; his son has to play tonight while grieving and he’s about to make his second trip up to the Bay Area in 24 hours. The first road trip was to pick up his son to help him through his grief over losing his two close friends. The two walked on the beach sharing their memories.
Chris and Jonathan Baxter are seen (at the 10:26 spot) in this episode of Committed with Watkins and Winston:
Watkins is a Verbum Dei Alumnus just like the Baxters, “I want everyone to live their own legacy.” The more I dug, the more mentors and trainers I found which warmed my heart. Everyone who came in contact with these brothers was impressive in their own right.
Ira Lee trained with Watkins when he was in 7th grade, and that’s how Ira met the brothers. Watkins also has a foster kid who signed with Utah. Lee first expressed his grief on Twitter but then played a game against the Chico State Wildcats in honor of the Baxter brothers.
As coach Torres reminded me, as folks pass on, other folks start anew; it’s the circle of life. The Baxter brothers leave a legacy that will never be forgotten. They have set the standard on how to be a great sibling, friend, mentor, and motivator. Let’s all learn from these two new angles on how to be a positive force in this world. We thank them for reppin’ Arizona Basketball, and we send our prayers up in respect and honor for Chris and JB Baxter.