Friends, family and fans of a rising high school basketball star are mourning after 18-year-old Malcolm Nicholas was shot and killed Sunday night.
Former coaches described his smile and said he had the “it factor” as he worked to improve his game and aimed for collegiate success.
Miami police said the former Miami Senior High and Mater Academy Charter standout was walking around Overtown at about 7 p.m. in the area of Northwest Fifth Avenue and7th Street, when the shots were fired.
Across social media, condolences and messages poured in, including from Nicholas’ high school and from Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem.
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“This breaks my heart. Young man didn’t deserve this. He had his entire life ahead of him and basketball was his way out of this city,” Haslem wrote in a tweet Monday night.
As a senior at Mater Academy, Nicholas averaged 21 points per game and 11 rebounds per game, and was named to the Miami Herald’s All-Dade basketball first team for division 9A-7A.
His coach at Mater, Marcos “Shakey” Rodriguez, described him as an “absolute joy to coach” and said everyone at the school liked and supported Nicholas.
“He was a leader and great human being. It’s a huge loss to our community and for everybody,” Rodriguez said.
For Rodriguez the loss is also somewhat personal, as he coached Nicholas’ father when he was at Miami High in the late 1980s.
“As soon as I became the head coach at Mater his dad wanted him to play for me,” Rodriguez said. “It’s tough for me because I knew Malcolm when he was little, I can’t imagine [his life] ending like that.”
Nicholas was attending the Believe Prep Academy in Athens, Tennessee. He had drawn interest from several schools including Eastern Michigan University and IUPUI, according to his player profile on 247sports.com.
Tyson Waterman, the founder and head coach at Believe Prep, said that Nicholas reported to his program in July and was working hard from there to improve his game.
“He’s a kid you want to be the face of your organization. Everything we do this year is going to be in his remembrance,” Waterman said, noting that the school had a memorial for him Monday.
He said that Nicholas primarily sought out the program so he could draw more interest from recruiters. Believe Prep, founded in 2010, is described as a “postgraduate basketball program” on the school’s website.
Waterman said switching him from the forward position to point guard allowed him to showcase his skills more.
“This kid had a very bright future in basketball. He had the it factor,” Waterman said.
On Monday morning Believe Prep tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers to the family/friends of Malcolm Nicholas, Jr. @Gods_Gift_2017_ Our hearts go out to you. You will truly be missed!”
Rodriguez said that he kept in touch with Nicholas and had spoken with him about a week ago.
“He was excited and told me about schools that recruited him,” Rodriguez said.
In other media reports, family members said Nicholas was in town visiting relatives in Overtown.
As of Tuesday morning, police did not confirm those reports or have details on suspects or a motive.
“We’re just heavily relying on the public to come forward with any information that may be a break in the case,” said Miami police spokesman Christopher Bess.
Police are asking anyone with information to call Miami-Dade Crimestoppers at 305-471-8477.
Police are offering a $3,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case.