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Santa Fe High hoops star shot dead

Santa Fe High’s Fedonta “J.B.” White was a top-100 recruit in the high school Class of 2021, but he was preparing for early enrollment at New Mexico. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“June Bug” was a week away.

Fedonta “J.B.” White, the 18-year-old star Santa Fe High School basketball player who was set to join the University of New Mexico Lobos next week in Albuquerque – the next step in his dream to play professional basketball – was shot and killed early Saturday morning at a party in Santa Fe County.

Officers with the Santa Fe Police Department arrested 16-year-old Estevan Mateo Montoya at his home around 7 a.m. in connection with the shooting, according to Juan Rios, a spokesman for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, the agency investigating the killing.

By Saturday evening, Montoya was facing a slew of charges, including an open count of first-degree murder, aggravated assault and negligent use of a deadly weapon.

According to a statement provided by SFCSO, White went to a house party at 33 Camino Chupadero, just north of Santa Fe near Tesuque. Rios said the home was being renovated and a large group had gathered for the party.

At some point, White and Montoya got into “a physical altercation,” after which Montoya allegedly shot White. Rios said details about what the altercation was about will be included in a criminal complaint to be filed in court Monday.

After the shooting, according to police, Montoya and others at the party fled. Meanwhile, some of White’s friends attempted to drive him to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. They eventually met up with an ambulance, which took White to the hospital, where White died of his wounds.

On Saturday night, Rios said that the Sheriff’s Office could not provide more details since it was still serving warrants to collect evidence. He said he could not comment on whether a weapon had been found.

Montoya is being held at the Santa Fe County Juvenile Detention Facility.

White, a 6-foot-8 forward who was expected to play on the wing in college, was so eager to get a jump-start on his college career with the Lobos that he wrapped up his high school coursework this summer so he could graduate early. He was set to accept the final open scholarship on the Lobo basketball team for this fall semester.

He was first offered a scholarship by UNM head coach Paul Weir in June 2018 after White’s freshman season. He played on the summer basketball circuit for the Utah-based Exum Elite team, and his recruiting stock jumped when coaches saw him. As of Saturday, he was ranked a top-100 recruit nationally in the high school Class of 2021 by all three major recruiting services (ESPN No. 100, rivals.com No. 92 and 247Sports.com No. 59).

White entertained offers from colleges across the country.

But his heart, for various reasons, was set on being a Lobo.

White told the Journal in October 2019 when he made his verbal commitment to the Lobos that the bond with UNM coaches felt like family, and he also wanted to represent his home state.

“I feel sometimes people look down on our state and people in it,” White told the Journal in October 2019. “I want to be a part of proving everyone wrong.”

But there was more.

White often talked about his love of his grandmother, Jude Voss, and his commitment to making her proud – using basketball both as a means to one day take care of her but also to escape the heartache of a troubled childhood. His mother battled substance abuse and eventually suffered an overdose as he was about to begin the sixth grade, leading him to move in with his grandmother.

“I just needed basketball in my life – something just to make me happy,” White told Sebastian Noel during a 2018 interview that aired on Proview Networks.

“… My grandma, I feel, she does a lot for me. She pays for a lot of stuff for me. I don’t know. I just want to see her happy. I just want to make it so I don’t ever have to see her work again.”

White played high school basketball in the gymnasium named for the only Lobo basketball player ever to have his jersey retired by the program, Toby Roybal. He would have been the first Lobo awarded a basketball scholarship directly out of a New Mexico high school since Cullen Neal ahead of the 2013-14 season. He would have been one of only two northern New Mexico players (Alex Kirk, Los Alamos, 2010-2014) to play on scholarship for the program in decades.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the passing of JB White,” UNM basketball said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “He was an extremely talented student-athlete and we were looking forward to him joining the Lobo Family. He was an amazing young man with a bright future, our thoughts and hearts go out to his family & friends.”

Last October, his high school coach, Zack Cole, said White had been a huge part of setting a strong foundation for Santa Fe High Demons basketball.

“He’s a gym rat who has helped create a gym-rat culture within our program,” Cole said. “His freshman season, he used to come in the gym alone at lunch to put up shots and work. Last year, there were a few others who came with him. This year, there are 25 guys coming in. He started that.”

Santa Fe Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia said in a phone interview that counselors and behavioral health specialists will be made available to any student, teacher or staff member who needs those services.

“It’s a tragic loss,” Garcia said of White’s death. “I’m always concerned, regardless of the cause, when there’s loss of young life like this.”

Santa Fe High principal Carl Marano said: “He was a talented young man who touched so many people in such a positive manner and he will be greatly missed. I will always remember his infectious smile and the love he had for the Santa Fe High family. Now, more than ever, I hope that our community can come together and support not only JB but all of our students and families during this difficult time.”

White is the third teenage homicide victim in the Santa Fe area in almost two months. Matthias Hutt has been charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his friend Aiko Perez, 17, on June 6, after what police state was a violent episode fueled by LSD.

On July 15, Santa Fe police also found Ivan Perez, no relation to Aiko Perez, dead of gunshot wounds in the Tierra Contenta area. Police arrested Mario Guizar-Anchondo in connection with the crime later the next day.

A GoFundMe account to help White’s family has been established. It can be found on GoFundMe.com by searching for “JB White.”

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