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J.B. White’s shooting death, stuns, shakes New Mexicans

Cleveland High’s Tre Watson, right, prepares to shoot over Santa Fe’s J.B. White during the second quarter of their game in Santa Fe during action on Jan. 3, 2019. Watson was one who expressed his grief on Saturday following the early morning shooting death of White. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

New Mexico awoke Saturday to this crushing, unfathomable news:

J.B. White is gone.

The shooting death early Saturday morning of the former Santa Fe Demons boys basketball star — and future New Mexico Lobo — reverberated deeply throughout the state as word of his passing moved swiftly and the grief stricken were trying to comprehend the utter senselessness of it all.

No one was hurting more than White’s grandmother, Jude Voss.

“I am your number one fan @JB_White_. I won’t know what to do without you. I loved every practice, every game and loved seeing every game. I watched your videos every night before I fell asleep. I will always be proud of you. Thank you for loving me and sending this to me,” Voss wrote Saturday night on Twitter.

Heartfelt tributes poured in for the 18-year-old White, gunned down near Santa Fe.

“I’m so hurt right now I don’t even know what to say,” Cleveland High multi-sport athlete Tre Watson wrote on Twitter. “This was real life my brother and he was taken way too early. JB you will be missed by a lot and never forgotten fly high my brother!”

One of White’s Santa Fe teammates, Cruz Martinez, on Saturday afternoon had a potent and wordless response to White’s death, posting on Twitter a photo of himself and White from when they were young boys.

Eldorado boys basketball coach Roy Sanchez remembers coaching against Santa Fe when White was a ninth-grader.

“I couldn’t believe he was a freshman. Wow,” Sanchez said by phone Saturday. “(I thought), he’s gonna be unbelievable. You could tell, he had a thirst for the game where he was gonna keep getting better.”

Santa Fe head coach Zack Cole said he wasn’t yet ready to talk about White’s death when reached Saturday. He did tweet, “I’m empty inside!” late in the afternoon.

“We are deeply shaken,” Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Veronica C. Garcia said as part of a prepared statement. She added, “It is unspeakable to lose someone so young and with such promise for the future.”

White’s AAU coach with the Utah-based Exum Elite is among those grappling with White’s passing.

“As a parent, as a coach, it doesn’t matter. I don’t know what to say or how to feel but that I loved him and already miss him,” Tim Davis tweeted. “I am Broken. His life was one where he carried a lot of burdens and grew so much through so many challenges! He was a all American off the court! We love you.”

UNM men’s assistant coach Brandon Mason was very close to White.

“When i was 4 years old my mom was murdered by the GUN. Coming from Chicago a lot of my high school friends were killed by GUNS. I have 3 boys that I have to protect from GUNS. I’m hurting” he wrote on Twitter.

The Albuquerque Isotopes and New Mexico United offered their condolences on social media.

That White is a victim of gun violence had many people using R-rated language to express their frustration and anger on social media. Several social media posts suggested that White’s time in Santa Fe was sometimes arduous.

From @EstevanSandoval, this tweet: “You can rest easy now my man. No pressure, no hate, no envy. So sad that you had to deal with this.”

Another tweet indicated that White had faced tremendous adversity wearing Santa Fe’s colors.

“The hate you’d see in opposing gyms was just sick and sad,” wrote @LoboSteve84 of Santa Fe.

Various high school sports programs around the state, from Taos to Socorro to Laguna, even the football programs at Carlsbad and Gadsden, paid tribute to White.

“Our young lives are the most precious. We need to protect them,” wrote @cavemenstrong.

Former New Mexico prep athletes weighed in, as well.

“Unbelieveable. I didn’t know the kid, but I’m absolutely heartbroken by this news. Rest In Peace, JB White,” former Eldorado standout Cullen Neal wrote on Twitter.

Jordan Byrd, Manzano alumnus and a running back at San Diego State, had a short but moving tribute to honor the loss of White.

“It’s hard to make it out of New Mexico but I promise I will give it my all for the ones who strive to be great,” Byrd wrote on his Twitter account.

Several photos of White — who was a celebrity in and around Santa Fe — interacting with adoring young fans made the rounds Saturday.

One of those photos, in which a young boy holds up a sign that reads, “We love you, J.B.!” also is the primary photo that anchors White’s Twitter page.

On that page, White says of himself:

“IM A STAR IM JUST SITTING IN THE LOW LIGHT”

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