Kent Boone remembers the shot like it was yesterday. It happened in a December high school game over seven years ago, but Boone still has it on instant replay in his mind.
His son Chavis caught a pass and immediately rose up for a three-pointer right in front of where Boone was sitting. As soon as the ball fell through the net, the proud father knew that Mount Vernon would win the biggest game of his son’s life.
The contest was not for a championship and didn’t affect the league standings, but it meant the world to Boone to watch Chavis, a senior who would soon be diagnosed with bone cancer, score 11 second-half points to lead his team to victory.
“It was packed in there. Man, it brought tears to my eyes,” Boone recalls before providing the play-by-play to his mental highlight.
Chavis could only play in four games that season and lost his life to cancer less than two years later, but his father keeps his memory alive through their shared love of basketball.
A die-hard Georgetown fan since the 1980s, Boone is dressed from head to toe in Hoya gear for every game and coaches at the Georgetown’s summer basketball camp for kids. Everything he does, from his custom-made Hoyas hat to his work as a basketball coach, is dedicated to Chavis.
“Basketball was our biggest thing to do together,” Boone says. “When I’m working at the camp or I’m at Georgetown games, I dedicate it to him and that gives me a lot of comfort. It’s a blessing in itself, and it helps me keep going.”
One day at the basketball camp, Boone used his experience to teach his team a lesson of strength in the face of adversity. His team was down 20 points when another staff member walked by and began joking about the mountain they had to climb.
“I said I’ve been down before – my son – I’ve been down before and always came back,” Boone recalls. “I huddled up with my kids and I said, `Kids, we’re down right now. I know you heard that. Now you have to dig down deep inside yourself and be scrappy.'”
His team came back to win the game, and Boone felt the same pride he once had watching his son play.
“When I went home I was on a cloud,” he says. “I was like, `Thank you, Chavis.'”
Boone has been playing basketball his entire life, but he got his coaching start in baseball when a group of kids didn’t have a coach. Others around the league called the kids “leftovers,” but Boone took them on and led them to the championship.
“I said if I can raise Chavis, let me see if I can do 10 more, and it worked,” he says.
Boone has always had a soft spot for the younger kids, and he began checking out books from the library on coaching Little League. He also learned as he watched his son at basketball clinics around the area.
Basketball opened doors for Chavis and his father, who still keeps notes written to the two from coaches including George Mason’s Jim Larranaga, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith and DeMatha legend Morgan Wootten.
Under the tutelage of the area’s finest basketball minds, Chavis blossomed as a basketball player and Boone took bits and pieces from each coach to add to his own coaching style.
Chavis played point guard and shooting guard and was one of Virginia’s top three-point shooters, according to Boone. He was a fundamental player with a quiet confidence preferring to let his play do the talking when an opponent started jawing with him and a favorite of his teammates, occasionally doing flips to keep them loose.
“He was a playmaker and a complete player, grabbing rebounds, giving up assists, making good passes,” explains Boone, who still displays his son’s trophies and has his old jerseys in a frame. “It was unbelievable. I was really in awe of him.”
Chavis played on the Rising Stars AAU team, and Boone keeps a binder of his son’s press clippings that mark his high school achievements.
Boone also keeps a video tape of a 1997 Thanksgiving tournament that Chavis played in with Georgetown point guard Chris Wright and Wright’s older brother. The coach of the team was Wright’s father, Orlando, another individual who contributed to Boone’s piecemeal coaching acumen.
“[Chavis] was a very good guy and a very easy-going guy,” Chris Wright remembers. “He was disciplined, but he liked to have fun. He was like any other kid. We all remember him and he lives through Kent Boone.”
When Chavis was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2002, his father was shocked and devastated. He even found coaching to be difficult.
“In my personal life, it was hard to move forward and to coach again, to give back what I gave him because you lost all of that,” Boone says.
But as time passed, Boone realized that coaching basketball could help heal his wounds. He submitted a basketball résumé to Georgetown’s summer camp, detailing the various clinics he had worked.
“It’s a blessing for them to let me work at the camp, to be a part of something. When I work at the camp I just dedicate it to Chavis,” says Boone, who has been a counselor at the camp for several years now. “I’ve always just fell in love with Georgetown, and I guess they fell in love with me.”
Both campers and coaches often joke with Boone that he is always sweating at the camp, but he takes it in stride. When he gets to McDonough in the morning, the gym fills Boone with energy and he has to start hoisting jump shots.
“It has to be Chavis’ spirit,” Boone says about the energy he feels. “My son, he’s driving me.”
When the camp starts, Boone is all business, encouraging the kids to work hard and strive to improve as players. He says he enjoys teaching the dribbling station to the guards, the position his son played.
“[Boone] is a very good camp counselor. He’s enthusiastic and he works,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III says. “As much as he loves cheering for us and supporting us, he loves teaching and showing little kids the fundamentals of the game.”
For Boone, coaching is about more than basketball. He tries to be a role model and mentor like he was for Chavis.
“I probably jammed so much into his head that most kids didn’t get,” Boone says of his son. “A lot of his friends, I was their father. A lot of the kids that I coached still call me Dad today.”
Chavis carried a piece of paper in his wallet that listed the priorities Boone wanted him to keep in life: God first, family second, friends and basketball next. Once, when Chavis brought home a poor report card, his father benched him. He told his son he cared about him as a student more than a basketball player and said that Chavis learned the lesson.
Even in basketball, Boone keeps different priorities than most. He does not emphasize winning and follows a saying he learned from Morgan Wootten: play hard, play smart and have fun. More often than not, Boone says, winning naturally follows those priorities.
“My purpose is to teach life through basketball,” he says. “Win some and lose some. When you win, you’re happy, but when you lose, how do you act? [You’ve] got to bounce back.”
With Chavis battling cancer, neither father nor son listed basketball as their proudest moment. Chavis’ graduation trumped any three-pointer or trophy won, proving that he learned the priorities his father taught. One reason Boone likes Georgetown basketball is the high graduation rate of its players, and he continues to teach the right priorities to campers.
“The wins and losses on the court are just one small aspect of what it can be,” Thompson says. “[Boone] is able to have an effect and touch many lives, just with his energy, his enthusiasm and his caring, and that’s something special.”
On game day at Verizon Center, one needs only a passing glance to see that Boone is a huge Georgetown fan. He wears a custom-made Hoyas shirt under a Georgetown sweatshirt, and has the team logo on his shoes, socks and even his watch.
What most people don’t notice is a tribute to his son. He had “Let’s Goooooo Hoyas” stitched into the side of his hat, six O’s for the six letters in the name Chavis.
A fan since the Patrick Ewing days, Boone says he wears at least some kind of Georgetown gear every day, which is never a problem because over half of his wardrobe is blue and gray. He even earned the nickname “Mr. Georgetown” from sophomore Jason Clark’s mother because he is always watching games or hanging around McDonough for the Kenner League in the summer.
“There are some big fans around,” Boone says from his seat several rows behind the Georgetown bench at Verizon Center, “but I think I might be the biggest one.”
He made the trip up to New York City last Saturday night to watch the Hoyas play in the final of the Big East tournament, another step in what Boone has dubbed the “Hoya Redemption Season.” After the Hoyas’ 2008-2009 campaign ended in a late season swoon, Boone started a blog called “Glide Hoyas” to chronicle the bounce back year.
Boone believes in “faith through adversity,” a quote he got from former Coach John Thompson Jr. and a motto that exemplifies his own life. His blog posts are always positive because, as he says, “These could be your kids. When people start talking negative about the team, you always have to have something positive to say about the team.”
Boone has had his own ups and downs, but through Georgetown basketball and coaching, he is able to keep the memory of his beloved son Chavis alive.
“Other than my family and my mom, nobody else did anything for my son – but every time I turn around, it’s Georgetown right there,” Boone says. “My whole life is dedicated to this blue and gray. Cut me right now, I’ll probably let out some blue and gray.”