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"Matt, I've got some real bad news," said the man on the other end of the line at 9:30 this morning.

John Crowder, the 6-foot-8, 215-pound power forward who starred at Mount Carmel as a sophomore, had been shot and killed last night.

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"This city, man ..." the source said as his voice trailed off.

Crowder was born and raised in East Baltimore, but basketball provided him a ticket out of the area. As an eighth-grader, Crowder moved to Texas to play for God's Academy in Dallas. Soon after he was profiled by the Dallas Morning News.

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John was born and raised by his grandmother on Baltimore's gritty east side. His mother died of cancer when he was 2. His father was long gone by then.

It wasn't long before John was running with the wrong crowd. Street life brought only trouble. He can recite a litany of juvenile run-ins with the law. He has witnessed, he says, both older brothers writhing on the ground after being shot in drug deals. One of his best friends was murdered. He was resigned to a similar fate. Few escape Kirk Avenue.Crowder's time in Dallas didn't last long. He returned to Baltimore for his freshman year, which he spent at Towson Catholic. Owls coach Josh Pratt was impressed with Crowder's play on TC's junior varsity, and expected big things from him as a sophomore.

When the Archdiocese of Baltimore closed Towson Catholic last summer, however, Crowder was forced to look for another school. He landed at Mount Carmel in Essex, where he quickly emerged as one of the MIAA B Conference's top talents.

I met Crowder for the first time in April. He played for Team Baltimore at the inaugural Maryland Super 60 Showcase at St. Paul's, scoring two points in the Class of 2012 contest and 11 in the 2011 game.

"I'm getting letters from Maryland, Virginia Tech, Clemson, St. Joseph's, a bunch of A-10s and ACC schools," Crowder said that day. "For me being from Maryland, I liked Maryland growing up and watching Maryland."

He was a seemingly affable manchild, appreciative of the interview and excited about playing for his cousin and guardian, Brodie Crowder, during the 2012 game. We briefly talked about his time in Dallas, and he said he was happy to be back home in Baltimore.

Crowder was playing for Nike Baltimore Elite this summer and would've had the opportunity to impress numerous college coaches during the open period this month. A free college education was undoubtedly in his future.

More details about Crowder's death will likely surface in the coming days. Condolences go out to family and friends of a promising young player taken far too soon.

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