Remembering how he lived

Devonte Bundley was known for his big heart. On the first day of a college basketball career he hoped would shape his future, it stopped.

November 13, 2010|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

Devonte Bundley fell to the court just 30 minutes into his first practice as a college athlete when his heart began to beat out of control and there was nothing anyone around him could do to slow it down.

His death then became a brief note in newspapers and a short report on local television.

His life, though, is what Bundley's family would like you to hear about now.

Family members realize that, unless you're from Bel Air or you closely followed high school athletics in Harford County — where you might have seen the lanky but graceful Bundley throw a touchdown pass or fill the lane on a fast break — his death Oct. 1 was probably the first time you heard his name. They say Bundley deserves to be remembered for more than the cardiac arrhythmia that took his life.

He was a dreamer. A prankster. A protective and loyal sibling. He was a skilled carpenter who became a project manager for Habitat for Humanity. For many years, he volunteered at an assisted-living center. He was driven and impulsive, to the point where he could never sit still, and he had a competitive engine that couldn't be turned off. He was obsessed with going as far as basketball would take him.

Bundley was also a man of faith and, according to his family, he would not want an abundance of tears spilled over his passing. Granted, at first, Bundley's family was devastated by his death. Family members missed his frequent phone calls asking whether anyone wanted some late-night comfort food because he just happened to be driving past McDonald's. They missed his endless teasing and the way he would walk into a room, survey the scene and introduce himself to the first person he didn't know.

They missed the way he borrowed slogans from commercials and dropped them randomly into conversation until the room erupted with laughter. Taco Bell provided him with one of his favorite non sequiturs.

"How's the game tonight, Devonte?"

"Zesty, tangy, spicy!" he'd respond.

But after a few days of mourning, after laughing and telling stories about the 18 years he spent on this earth, every member of Bundley's family went to his memorial service with dry eyes and smiles. They now believe his mission in this life was complete, and to grieve too much over his death would be to miss the point God wanted to make by taking Bundley when He did.

'He gave it all away'

Yes, Devonte Tyree Bundley died Oct. 1. But in all the days that came before it, he lived.

"It's ironic to me that his heart didn't work anymore, because I believe he had given so much of it away over the years," said Rodney McCoy, Bundley's stepfather. "In the 18 years that he was here, he gave it all away."

Growing up in Bel Air and Abingdon, Bundley wasn't the oldest child in his family. That honor went to Duane Goodman, older by a year. The two siblings spent countless hours as kids shooting baskets in their family driveway, locked in vicious one-on-one duels that lasted well past dusk. Bundley was obsessed with figuring out how to dunk. When Goodman wanted to play video games, Bundley insisted they go outside and shoot baskets instead. He hated losing. He turned everything into a competition, whether it was cleaning the house or growing facial hair.

"His brother worked at Wendy's when he was 16," Rodney McCoy said. "And Devonte wanted to know, 'How come I can't get a job? I want to work, too!' We kept telling him he was only 15 and he needed to focus on school, but he wouldn't hear it. It got so bad that the day he turned 16, he went and got a job at Wendy's. That's how competitive he was."

It wasn't long before the brothers' relationship no longer reflected the order of their birth. One day Goodman realized Bundley, who had grown to 6 feet 3, was simply too tall and too athletic for him to guard. Younger brother soon shifted into protective mode.

"We would go the YMCA, and he'd always make sure I'd ended up on his team," Goodman said. "If my guy got past me, he immediately came over to block his shot. He always had my back. If I wasn't playing well, he'd hold my defender so I could do what I wanted. He would say: 'You shoot. I'll do the hard stuff.'"

At Harford Tech, his athletic gifts were soon complemented by his social skills. He was handsome and flirty, dressed sharp and smiled a lot, which earned him plenty of attention from girls. He made friends easily, even with strangers twice his age.

As a sophomore, he was named homecoming king, and he was soon the starting quarterback for the football team. He was one of the fastest sprinters on the track team and a gifted — if, at times, overanxious and foul-prone — star on the basktball team.

"He was so good at sports that everyone knew who he was," said Shakeera Alston, one of Bundley's friends. "But he was also a really dedicated friend. He was just social with everyone. He loved his sisters. He was always talking about them."

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