|Hervey Malone of the Cal Poly Pomona men's basketball team wears a T-shirt under his jersey in honor of a late high school teammate.|
Cal Poly Pomona Guard Dedicates Season to Former Teammate — One week before they were set to graduate from Pittsburg High School, Hervey Malone placed a phone call to his best friend, Greg Ashford.
The date was June 6, 2001. Ashford was with a group of fellow seniors who were enjoying a barbecue at a local lake. Malone wanted to call his friend to see how things were going.
There was no answer.
Shortly after finishing eating, Ashford had gone swimming in the lake, suffered cramps, was pulled under by a strong current and drowned.
?I was at a different place. Around the same time it happened, I was trying to call him on his cell phone,? Malone says. ?I couldn?t believe it really happened. Out of all of us on the basketball team, he was the best swimmer. When we?d go to basketball tournaments and stay at hotels, he was always the first one in the swimming pool. The whole school was in shock ? students, teachers, especially his teammates. We were all down.?
Malone, a freshman shooting guard for Cal Poly Pomona, is one of five former high school teammates who are keeping the memory of their close friend alive. Before each Cal Poly Pomona game ? and also at halftime ? Malone wears a t-shirt bearing a large picture of Ashford on both sides. It says, ?Rest In Peace, Greg, AKA, G-Nasty? along with ?June 6, 2001? ? the date of Ashford?s death. Malone also wears a black/orange ribbon on his shooting shirt.
Malone?s uniform number at Cal Poly Pomona, ?20,? was the number Ashford wore at Pittsburg.
?There were six seniors on our team and the ones who are playing sports now all wear the shirts at our games,? Malone says. ?We knew we were going to do it. That?s what we felt was right. We all wear No. 20 in memory of him.?
Three of the Pittsburg graduates play basketball; two play football. All wear the No. 20.
?His character was what I remember the most. He was not a quitter. So many times throughout high school, there were low points for him where he could have quit,? Malone says. ?I think he didn?t want to quit because he didn?t want to quit on his teammates. You could tell he had a big heart and really cared. Whenever I get down or things are going bad for me, I think of him and how he would persevere and not give up.?
Malone, one of the Broncos? top 3-point shooting threats and best guards, said he has drawn inspiration from his fallen friend. Malone himself was a talented three-sport star at Pittsburg, where he excelled in basketball, baseball and track. He was honored for both academic and athletic excellence in high school. He averaged 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in basketball; played first base and all three outfield positions in baseball; and ran the 400 meters in 51 seconds, high jumped 5 feet, 10 inches and long-jumped 20-0 in track.
He earned first-team All-Bay Valley League honors twice and honorable mention another year in basketball. He also graduated from high school with a 3.5 grade point average and was on the school?s honor roll and merit list.
Asked why he decided to attend Cal Poly Pomona, Malone says simply, ?because of assistant coach (Steve) Wachs. If I hadn?t come here, I probably would have first gone to a junior college.?
Even with all his high-school accolades, Malone, a business major at Cal Poly Pomona, found himself on the sideline last year as a redshirt freshman. He said it was difficult not being able to participate in games.
?It was very tough. There would be days in practice where I just didn?t feel like finishing because I knew I wasn?t going to be playing, or days where I was just down in practice,? Malone says. ?I thought about Greg and would say to myself, ?why am I down? Greg wouldn?t be down. He wouldn?t quit.??
Malone didn?t quit, either. He worked extremely hard at improving his game and when the 2002-03 season began, he was ready. Malone started the first two games for Cal Poly Pomona in the Western Washington Tournament, scoring 13 points in the Broncos? opener against Saint Martin?s College.
Through the Broncos? first 11 games this season, Malone was second on the team in 3-point shots made and fifth in scoring.
?It?s a pleasure coaching Hervey,? Cal Poly Pomona head coach Greg Kamansky says. ?He works hard every single day in practice and he?s an outstanding individual both on and off the court. He?s a player who?s going to continue to get better.?
Malone is relishing the opportunity to compete and is extremely motivated to play well. He has also dedicated the 2002-03 season to Ashford.
?It?s a very good feeling to be playing again. I owe every game to Greg. He made me a better player in high school because he was such a good team player. He was the best team player I?ve ever played with,? Malone says. ?This year is the most meaningful because this is the first season I could dedicate to him. I?m still close to his family and go to his house.?
In fact, Ashford?s parents attended Cal Poly Pomona?s game at UC Davis on Jan. 11. Malone started and had 10 points and five rebounds. Two of Ashford?s nephews, Rudy and Myvante Foreman, who are 5 and 3 years old, also went to the game.
?I kind of feel like their uncle,? Malone says. ?They look up to me every time I come over. It?s a good feeling knowing that they look up to me.?
Malone also has another tribute he gives to Ashford each time he gets to the free-throw line.
?Every time I shoot a free throw, I dribble the ball four times, spelling out each letter of his name in remembrance of him,? Malone says.
Malone says he also keeps in contact with the other four Pittsburg grads who are competing in college sports. Trimaine Davis plays basketball at San Diego State; Darryl Anderson plays basketball at Los Medanos College; Lennox Hunte plays football at Los Medanos College; and Marcus Davis is transferring to play football at Fresno City College.
?When it happened, we all made a commitment to stay in touch with each other and not lose contact,? he says. ?Greg?s death was totally unexpected and we wanted to be in contact with each other as much as we could. We say we?re brothers and we?re going to stay close.?