Dajae Coleman spent part of Saturday at an Evanston gym doing what he loved: teaching basketball to younger players.
But just hours after he left the gym, Dajae, 14, was shot to death while walking home from a party less than a mile from home, police said.
Dajae was "one of those kids that's always willing to help out in the community," said Jetter Gibson, his former coach with the Evanston Pride Feeder Basketball team. "He wasn't in the streets."
About 10:30 p.m., police responding to a call of gunshots in the 1500 block of Church Street, found Dajae, a freshman at Evanston Township High School, fatally shot.
Cherylette Hilton said she heard a couple of gunshots while driving nearby Saturday night. At Church Street, she saw a group of about 10 teenagers and heard three more shots, Hilton said. Police had released little information about the incident Sunday evening.
Dajae, of the 1900 block of Foster Street in Evanston, was often in the gym preparing for his first year of high school hoops.
"He just idolized basketball players," said his mother, Tiffany Rice. "Everything was basketball, basketball, basketball."
Gibson said the young point guard was talented and a joy to coach.
"He was the quietest kid," Gibson said. "Every time you told him to do something, it was, 'Yes, sir.' A very respectful kid. One of the nicest kids that I've known."
The boy's father, Richard Coleman, gave Dajae permission to go to the party. He was to call his father for a ride home.
"How you gonna tell a kid with good grades, star basketball player, 'No, you can't go out?'" Richard Coleman said. "The last thing he said to me was, 'Yeah, I'm gonna call you, Dad.' (He) never called."
Kim Jones, 27, said she was supervising her niece's 17th birthday party when two girls got into an argument.
"As soon as the two girls started, I told them they have to leave because I didn't want nothing to happen," she said. "I said: 'Thank you all for coming. Its time to go.'"
The party started between 7:30 and 8 p.m. and ended around 10 p.m., Jones said. The entire high school was invited via Facebook but about 100 people showed up, said Chastity Jones, Kim Jones' niece.
Kim Jones said she didn't see anyone with a gun or serve any alcohol.
On Sunday, some students gathered at the high school, where administrators promised to have grief counselors on hand Monday.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and two aldermen walked the streets, reassuring residents and meeting with Coleman's relatives. Others wondered why it happened to Dajae, an honor roll student at Haven Middle School.
"This is devastating," said Tyrone Wilson Sr., who coached Dajae's eighth-grade football team. "He's like the last kid you would think this would happen to. He always minded his business and loved hanging with his teammates."
Wilson had known Dajae since the boy was in elementary school.
"He was a game-changer, on the field and in life," Wilson said. "Athletically, he was very gifted, one of the best players on the team every year, not just athletically but characterwise. He's a real stand-up kid."
Dajae's other coaches told similar stories.
"We lost a good one," said Andre Patrick, vice president of the Evanston Pride organization . "I don't know necessarily how some of (his teammates) are gonna bounce back from this. A lot of them wish there is something they could have done to save him."
Rice said her son looked forward to going to the homecoming dance and getting a driver's license.On Friday, Dajae said he might want to become a doctor or engineer when he grows up and is willing to put in the work to achieve that goal, his father said.
A few days before his death, Dajae wrote an essay for his humanities class about his respect for his family and another basketball coach. Parts of the essay read like a bittersweet thank you to the adults in his life.
"I think the kids that are on the street not doing anything with their lives don't get the type of support they need from family," he wrote. "They probably don't have anyone to look up to."
"I'm very fortunate," he wrote, "to have the family I have."
Peter Nickeas contributed