Hearing someone that I knew well enough to call a friend or family hits me hard. And it hits me hard in a variety of ways. It makes me even more reflective if the person that passes was of a younger age. I just found out this afternoon that a friend of mine from high school passed unexpectedly. Rico Darden was one of the first people I met when I moved from Colorado to Nebraska. When my family first moved to Bellevue, I didn't know anyone or have anything else to do but go to the Youth Center and play basketball. The times to get in some good run there were Summer Friday nights. The gym would open up for basketball at 6 and if you got there right at 6....you could warm up a little before everyone else came. On one Friday, I was in the gym shooting by myself and Rico popped his head in, made eye contact with me and gave me the bruh man head nod (all 'Martin' fans know the head nod). He then came over and introduced himself while we shot around. Rico wasn't the best basketball player, but man was he intense and super athletic. We ended up playing one on one for a few minutes and I tried to 'big boy' him on some bs post move and I backed into him and he didn't move at all! We eventually became pretty good friends and I would occasionally go over to Peter Sarpy Elementary with him and one of my other high school friends CJ. If you have played on the outdoor courts at an elementary school before, you know all about the low rims where you could dunk like an NBA superstar. We would play the 'bet you can't dunk on me' game and I would never be able to dunk on Rico! His timing and upper body strength would always get the best of me. Once the school year started, we ended up in the same Spanish Class. We would sit and the back and do our usual Spanish Class knucklehead routines. You know, guess at answers by saying 'Taco Bell' or other things that we thought were hilarious but probably wasn't to the teacher. One of our favorite inside jokes was: one day Rico had on some Cross Colour stuff on....you know how bright all of that gear was....and his pants was orange. When we walked into class the teacher was like 'Ah...Senior Rico...me gusta tu anaranjado pantalones!' Man, we bust out laughing and we would say that almost everyday in class. In fact, we said it so much that the teacher added the phrase on one of our final tests! I always knew where Rico was in the school because he was always smiling, joking, and was usually surrounded with people. He would always be able to make me laugh and making one of his faces across the room or on the court. Another thing I remembered about Rico was how close he was to his sister Chiquita and his parents..I think he maybe had another sibling but they were a little younger. Their dynamic was similar to my family. His dad was a no-nonsense military man (like my dad) and his mom was the softer 'good cop' of the two. Rico and his family moved away after my freshman year, so I only got to hang around him for that year. We recently re-connected on Facebook and reading his posts about retiring from the military and being a father usually made me chuckle and laugh the same way he did back at Bellevue West. I want to send my condelences to Rico's family and friends. Rico was a good dude and will be truly missed.
Make sure you remember to take care of yourselves,