A jersey draped over an empty chair and an overtime win underscored the tragedy of Rashawn Anderson’s murder. NewsWorks captured the somber mood in words and video.
The gym at South Philadelphia had most of the elements of playoff basketball – cheerleaders, signs, two teams battling into overtime – but something else, something heavy, hung in the air.
Shock and grief were the backdrop to this Tuesday matchup between South Philly and Roxborough high schools.
Rashawn Anderson, a senior at Roxborough High School and his team’s leading scorer, was shot and killed Monday night near his home in the Abbotsford public housing project in Hunting Park.
Police said Anderson, who was nicknamed “Shawnee,” was shot nine times at around 11:15 p.m. in the 3200 block of McMichael Street. He was pronounced dead at the Temple University Hospital about a half hour later. Police said they have no suspects at this point.
The school considered postponing the game because of Anderson’s death, but his teammates voted to play the game in his memory.
A few minutes before tipoff, the scene in the gym seemed routine.
As spectators filtered in and sat on the risers, Roxborough players ran through their layup drills, then did some synchronized stretching on the hardwood.
It wasn’t until the end of warm-ups that the day turned out of the ordinary.
Just before the national anthem, students and staff from both schools shared a moment of silence in Anderson’s memory.
“I’m sure you’re all aware of the sad circumstances that are surrounding this game,” George Anderson, South Philly’s head basketball coach, said. “We appreciate the courage of both teams playing and we appreciate you supporting them, the fans in the stands.”
Roxborough Principal Stephen Brandt accompanied the students who traveled to Broad and Snyder for the game.
“The news hit us very hard this morning,” said Brandt, an alumnus of the school. Earlier, at the school he’d said of Anderson: “Rashawn was a great kid, all smiles every day; he’s certainly going to be missed by the entire school community.”
Brandt said the idea of postponing the PIAA playoff game quickly flew off the table after Rashawn’s teammates were consulted.
“The student athletes were adamant about playing this game and they’re hoping to come down here and play their hearts out for those present and in the memory of Rashawn,” he said.
They did. The underdog Indians of Roxborough won the game over the higher-seeded host team, 55-53 in overtime.
Lakeefah Hayes, who said she was a lifelong friend of Rashawn’s and graduated from Roxborough High last year, said she never considered not attending the game.
“We had to come and show love. We had to. We had to come,” she said with tears streaming down her cheeks.
Joined in the bleachers by friends, Hayes said she still hasn’t had time to process last night’s shooting. She couldn’t imagine something like this ever happening to her friend and chalks up the murder to chance.
“He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Hayes.
Lashay Boseman, Anderson’s girlfriend, was similarly shocked. The two had been dating “a year, a month and three weeks.
“He was cool and funny,” she told NewsWorks before the game. “He was a funny person to be around. He made me smile. And he was always there for me, always.”
She said they both were looking forward to graduating in June, and he was hoping to continue his playing career in college.
Anderson, a 5-foot-11 inch point guard, averaged 14.5 points a game in his junior season.
Back at the school earlier today, students and teachers began to mourn as students learned of the tragedy.
“This is just really crazy, just shocking,” said Troy Seabrook, a junior at Roxborough High School. “The mood in the school was real quiet, people didn’t get much done. A lot people were really feeling the grief.”
Anderson is the second Roxborough High School student murdered in the past three weeks. On Jan. 19, the body of 18-year-old Christopher Foster was discovered in Germantown. He had been shot elsewhere and dumped there. His funeral was just last week.
“It’s a very emotional time here at the school,” Brandt said. “We’re trying to support our student body as best as possible to make it through this.”
Alan Tu and Megan Pinto contributed reporting to this story.
If you have memories or stories about Rashawn Anderson you’d like to share, please feel free to use the comment section below.