From the time he could walk, Devonte Bundley never felt more alive then those moments when he held a basketball in his large hands.
Countless hours of his youth were burned up in his parents' Bel Air driveway, gripping a ball and staring up at the rim. He yearned to dunk as much as any boy has ever yearned for anything, friends and family said, and so when it finally happened — when he finally soared high enough and flushed the ball cleanly through the basket — it set free a euphoria inside him that nothing could ever truly match.
For that reason, Bundley's parents chose to bury him Saturday with a basketball in his casket.
The ball was signed by each of his Harford Community College teammates, the ones who watched him laugh and joke during warm-ups at the team's first practice of the year, held on Oct. 1. They were the ones who, minutes later, watched him suddenly gasp for breath and fall to the ground. He was 18. The cause of death has not been determined.
Saturday was a day of reflection and remembrance for Bundley's family and friends, as hundreds came out and packed the New Psalmist Baptist Church to pay their respects, and then attend a memorial in Bundley's honor held at the Student Center on the HCC campus. But it was not a sad day for Bundley's family. Sadness, they said, would not bring back the popular three-sport athlete who starred at Harford Tech high school, and was known as "Vonte" to those closest to him. They chose instead to smile a lot, to celebrate the time they'd spent with him, and tell stories about his kindness, his competitiveness, his self-confidence and his passion.
"If Devonte had to go, I know he would have wanted to go on a basketball court, with everyone suddenly knowing who he is," said Rodney McCoy, Bundley's stepfather. "I'm quite sure he's up there looking down on us, saying 'I did it. I had a basketball on the hardwood when it all went down. If you told him he could live for another 40 years, but never touch a basketball again, or he could go the way he did, I know for certain he would have picked basketball."
His sister, Alexis McCoy, laughed as she told a story about the day Bundley taught her how to ride a bike. His older brother, Duane Goodman, smiled as he recalled the countless basketball games he and Bundley played at the YMCA, especially the ones when Bundley used his superior skills to get his sibling open shots.
His mother, Towanda McCoy, said she believes God had big plans for her son. Bundley wanted so badly to prove he had the talent to play in the NBA one day. That was his dream.. But she took comfort in her belief that God decided her son was needed on a more important journey.
"Devonte was so young, but he did things that people who lived to be 30 and 40 years old never got the chance to do," said his sister, Alexis. "He touched so many people everywhere he went. Yes, it's sad at first, but when you see how much love everyone had for him, how happy he made people, it gives you comfort."