By JEFF MAYES
Chicago Sun-Times Wire
The Illinois Sabers minor league football team opened its 2016 season by celebrating a championship. This season will open on a more somber note: A special ceremony will honor one of its players, Cedric Adkins-Malone, who died five days after being shot outside his Far South Side home.
“He was one of our own,” Sabers general manager Dana Hutchinson said Thursday. “We are still in shock. He was a good kid, very respectful. He was a mama’s boy. He was like one of our kids.”
Things won’t be any easier for the boys basketball team at the Community Youth Development Institute. The team played in the semifinals of the Alternative Schools Network’s Final Four Wednesday, just hours after learning of the death of Adkins-Malone, a former player who helped out as an assistant coach.
“The boys struggled through, and you could tell their minds were elsewhere,” ASN assistant director Matrice Manuel said.”But they pulled it out somehow and will play for the championship Friday night.”
The 22-year-old Adkins-Malone was working on his car last week in front of his Rosemoor home when he was shot. Five days later, the popular local athlete, who also coached youth basketball, was dead.
He was outside working outside about 2:15 p.m. Friday, March 17, in the 10200 block of South Calumet when someone came out of a gangway across the street and opened fire, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
He suffered a gunshot wound to the neck and was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. He was pronounced dead there at 5:04 p.m. Wednesday, authorities said.
“He was not a kid of the streets,” Hutchinson said. “He played football, he coached, he worked, and he went home.”
Adkins-Malone, a wide receiver, had been with the team since its inception four years ago, she said.
“He had a beautiful smile; you never saw a frown on his face,” Hutchinson said. “He was always encouraging his teammates. He was a competitor and just a good kid.”
When the team started in the Midwest Football League, one of the goals was “to get kids off the street,” she said.
Adkins-Malone fit right in. The King College Prep alum lived with his mother and sister, coached youth basketball, and had just started a new job, Hutchinson said.
The Sabers will turn the opening game on May 20 into a Memorial Game for Adkins-Malone. His number 8 jersey will be retired and presented to his family, and the Example Setters Youth Poetry group, which “promotes unity,” will perform, Hutchinson said.
Football teammate Ken Barnes posted on Facebook: “Dam bro for three years we want to battle with each other in we be came a family. It was hard seen u like that. But I was glad I was there to see u fighting ur last battle. Cedric TwoTimez Malone I miss u bro wish I could of played my last season side by side with u.”
The game will be played at 7 p.m. at Serpico Field at 25th and Lake Street in Melrose Park.
“He was one of our own,” Hutchinson said.
In Auburn Gresham, the CYDI basketball team is preparing to play for the title Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Robeson High at 6835 S. Normal Blvd. The game will be dedicated to Adkins-Malone.
“All those kids knew him, and respected him, and two or three of them had played with him when he was a student here,” Manuel said. The school has assigned a therapist to discuss the death with any players who wish to talk.
Adkins-Malone had been a player for CYDI before he graduated from the school, then returned to coach the same kids he had played with.
Basketball teammate Quan Pierce posted on Facebook: “I could always look up to you cuz you looked out for me and you was always motivating me to do better & try harder. We won 2 championship together one of them as a teammate the other as my coach you was a brother to me RS.”