Except for a few camera clicks, the sound of a mother sobbing over her dead son filled the Pat Riley Center on Friday night.
There was an empty jersey draped on an empty chair.
Eddie Stanley’s was the last name called when Schenectady High’s starting lineup was introduced, and two parallel lines of his beaming teammates held their palms low to slap five, as if their friend was sprinting through.
Stanley was going to be the next basketball star in a basketball-mad city, a 6-foot-2 phenom who actually liked playing defense, who blocked a shot against Albany High School last year that head coach Eric Loudis calls “one of the best things I’ve ever seen.”
It’s a haunting image now.
Stanley was 15 years old when he was shot five times at a party on Bridge Street on June 12. He was pronounced dead at Ellis Hospital. On July 12, 31-year-old James Wells of Brooklyn was charged with second-degree murder in the case.
Stanley was going to be the next basketball star in Schenectady, but instead, his family and teammates are left with the dignified tokens of his memory that were assembled for the Patriots’ home game against Albany on Friday.
“Great person,” Schenectady senior Jallah Tarver said. “Fun to be around. Always laughing. Always hungry.
“I feel, personally, not just saying this, either, he was going to be one of the best players to come out of Schenectady. He just dominated every aspect of the game. He could take over a game anytime he wanted to.”
To honor Stanley, Schenectady kept a seat open on the bench for him during the game, with his red No. 11 jersey draped over the back and a long-stemmed red rose leaning on the seat.
Before the game, four of his former teammates who have graduated, Anthony Richardson, Josh Moses, Kumar Araujo and Harold West, carried an easel stand and a large glass-enclosed frame, covered in a white sheet, to center court.
They were accompanied by 16 family and friends.
The sheet was removed to show Stanley’s white jersey, and during a moment of silence, it was impossible for his mother, Tanisha Stanley, to contain her grief.
“It was very emotional, because this is what he loved,” she said. “To see all his other teammates play is kind of unfair that he’s not here to play with them. That itself made me very emotional.”
The most profound tribute came at the opening tap, when Loudis sent Tarver, Darius Macon, Danssel Rodriguez and Shateek Garlic — and no fifth starter — onto the floor.
With everyone on the bench holding up both index fingers to signify Stanley’s No. 11, the Falcons let Macon tap the ball back to Tarver, who dribbled it into the frontcourt and pressed the ball to the floor.
Loudis sent in a fifth player, Bebeto Roberts, they re-tapped, and the game was on.
“Eddie. Eddie was going through my head,” Loudis said. “I was trying to keep my composure. Listening to mom cry . . . that was tough.”
Loudis was in the tricky position of presenting a fitting memorial to Stanley while not losing sight of the fact that the Patriots were still trying to win a game out there, balancing the emotions of teenage boys against the job at hand.
Schenectady was a little ragged at the start, but regained its composure and clawed back into it by halftime.
The Patriots managed to take a slim lead in the second half, only to succumb to poor free-throw shooting and the torrid outside shooting of the Falcons’ Conor Driscoll.
“We definitely could’ve used Eddie out there tonight,” Loudis said. “He made a block last year with 47 seconds left, when we won, 57-52. He touched the top of the square, and I’ll never forget that block.”
“It was a very emotional experience, not having him out there, but we had to man up and play the game,” Tarver said.
“This is for him,” said Stanley’s father, Eddie Morgan. “These are his people. They’re showing him love. I really can’t talk, because it’s so hurting . . . I’m speechless.”
“He was a good boy,” Tanisha Stanley said. “All he did was play basketball.”
Eddie Stanley was doing just that the day before he was killed.
He and the Albany City Rocks AAU team were in a tournament in the Bronx, but they lost, and he was home early that weekend.
He showed up at the party on Bridge Street to help a friend who had been DJ-ing to pack up his equipment, and a dispute that started over some missing car keys ended with Stanley taking five bullets.
“I was asleep, and my niece came downstairs and yelled Eddie had just got shot,” Tarver said. “I talked to him earlier that day. He was supposed to come to my house, and he never showed.
“I didn’t believe her. I thought I was dreaming.”
“Being my first year last year, I never thought I’d experience something like that, never thought I would experience giving a eulogy,” Loudis said. “It’s important that we don’t forget this young man. I think some kids, a month or two later, forget that something ever happened. With him, that’s not the case.”
Stanley’s friends and family recalled what a fun person he was to be around, how he had a genuine sense of caring for other people.
After the 68-54 loss to the Falcons, the Patriots quietly shuffled out of the locker room and walked out into the dark night.
Eddie Morgan was one of the last to leave, carrying a big frame with a boy’s basketball jersey behind polished glass.
“Putting his jersey in the case last night? That bothered me,” Loudis said. “It did. Going to his wake and funeral? That really bothered me. Since he was cremated, I have no place to go to.
“It’s just a shame that he’s not here to see what could’ve been. What could’ve been.”
“I’ll never get over it. Never,” Tarver said. “I will never get over it, ever, in my life, until I’m 90 years old. A kid with that much potential and that close to me. Never.”
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