Devonte Hall’s career was climbing fast.
As a freshman on Bossier High School’s 2010-11 Class 4A state championship team, he was a vital contributor after the Bearkats lost Devonte Francis to a midseason injury. By the end of his sophomore year, Hall was a first-team All-City and Class 3A All-State selection.
June 16, however, threatened to tear that apart.
While the Bearkats were playing a summer league game, Hall’s father, 51-year-old Dewayne Hall, was helping a neighbor in Bossier City. An electrical mishap occurred, and Dewayne died of a heart attack.
“I feel like it was the worst day of my life,” said Hall, who was 17 when his father died.
For Hall, the loss was a first, but it wasn’t the only challenge he has faced.
Hall’s older brother, 22-year-old Antonio Rasco, was born with Lowe Syndrome, which affects the eyes, brain and kidneys.
Though five years younger, Hall has helped care for Rasco throughout his life.
“Devonte’s always been so close to him,” their mother, Lorece Hall, said. “Real close.”
Helping care for Rasco already had given Hall a maturity that belied his school classification.
It also led Hall to develop a soft spot for those with learning disabilities. Bossier has classes for those such students, and Hall makes it a point to interact with them as much as possible.
“I mess around with them; I play with them,” he said. “I treat them like they’re regular people, because they really are.”
While having Rasco in his life gave Hall guidelines for interacting with those students, there was no guide available for Hall on how to handle losing a father.
“When we got the call (about Dewayne Hall), my wife and I went to the hospital,” Bossier coach Jeremiah Williams said. “You don’t know what to say. I just put my arm around him and was there for him. Later, we got a chance to sit down and talk about the situation and help him get through it. You know, time is the only thing that will aid in the healing process with that situation.”
The holidays were tough on Hall and his family.
Lorece Hall was hit hardest emotionally.
“I thought about him, and I thought about our birthdays,” she said, after choking back tears. “We always planned our birthdays (January 26 and 28) together and had a big party. It just really tore me apart.”
Like he did two seasons ago for Francis, Devonte Hall has heeded his father’s words and stepped in his place.
“He gets sad, then he’ll tell me, ‘Mama, everything’s going to be all right,” Lorece Hall said. “He said, ‘Daddy told me if anything happens to me, take care of your mama.’ That’s what Devonte’s doing.”
As he has done in the last two seasons, Devonte is helping the Bearkats take care of things on the court as well.
Bossier carries an 18-3 record into tonight’s game against Pleasant Hill, and the Bearkats have again solidified their place among the Class 3A elite.
Devonte has a strong support system in place, both at home and in the Bossier backcourt.
“We all have that little bond, but Tae Bear (senior guard Deorvion Robinson) is my big brother,” Hall said. “We talk about everything.”
Much like his team, Devonte has kept his game strong, even after the loss of his father.
While it surprised his mother, Devonte turned in one his best performances of the summer the day after his father died.
“It never affected him on the court,” Williams said. “The next day, we went to a summer league game in Ruston, and he wrecked shop. He used it as his fuel to make him play even harder. I think he’s handled it as well as any young man his age could handle it.”
The way he handles it brings tears filled with mixed emotions to Lorece’s eyes.
She said she sees so much of her late husband in their son that she will cheer and cry at the same time when Devonte makes a key shot or creates a turnover.
“(Dewayne) would be out there working with him and showing him how to do it,” Lorece said. “He does pretty much what his daddy taught him. I stand up and I’m proud, but I also cry because I see that Devonte looks just like him. It makes me cry so much, but (Devonte) doesn’t know. I try to keep it from him.”
At home, when he sees his mother hurting, Devonte hears his father’s words ringing in his ears.
“Take care of your mama.”
In the locker room, as Bossier takes aim at a fifth straight state title-game berth, Devonte swears his father is right there with him.
“I get a feeling every game before the game,” Devonte said. “I get a little tap on my left arm before every game, and I think it is my dad.”