JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The smile. The personality. The motivation. The vertical leap.
William Easton had it all.
The former Ribault High School and senior point guard on the Wilberforce University basketball team died in a car accident in town on April 9, just a day before his 22nd birthday. He was memorialized in a ceremony in the Trojans gym on Friday night, remembered by current and former teammates and coaches underneath a basketball setting.
Funeral services for Easton will be held Saturday at Bethel Baptist.
“To be able to see my son’s impact, to look out here and be able to see these people and what he meant to them,” said his father, James Easton. “Is just something that you just, you can’t imagine. You can’t. There’s no words to describe this.”
At Ribault, Easton was well-liked. His demeanor easy going. Easton was always smiling, but competitive to the core. Speakers on Friday night recalled his stature (undersized), his tenacity (relentless) and his defensive pressure that was a Ribault hallmark. Easton prided himself on the dirty work. Guarding a team’s top scorer. Drawing charges. Tracking down loose balls.
And he did all of that despite being the smallest player on the court every night.
“He’s a small kid, but he got a big heart. He got a big heart. I’m a small guy, too. His heart was like my heart. And I loved him to death,” said former Englewood coach Jerry Battle.
Listed at 5-foot-4 on his college basketball roster, Easton was a couple inches shorter than that during his junior year at Ribault in 2016. That’s when videos of him throwing down dunks went viral across social media. They eventually made it on to ESPN.
One speaker at the memorial mentioned that only two Ribault boys basketball players had been shown in the highlights on ESPN. One was a former player being dunked on by Allen Iverson, the other was Easton.
Google searches still populate with Easton’s dunking ability.
His father said that the last Ribault basketball member to have a memorial service in the school’s gym was iconic boys basketball coach Bernard Wilkes.
“William was family, like the big brother I never had. William was always making sure I was on top of everything,” said former Ribault and Englewood guard Dale Green Jr.
“When I first got into high school, he made sure the transition was easy. When I got to middle school, he made sure the transition was easy. When I got to college, he made sure the transition was easy. When I got a girlfriend, you know, he made sure I had everything together, you know, and that I wasn’t focusing on her too much. He was just like the big brother I needed. Losing him felt like I lost a part of me.”
Wilberforce University said in a release that Easton was very respected on campus. He held a 3.5 grade point average and was an honor student. The university’s presidential cabinet has elected to award Easton his degree posthumously during the May 29 graduation ceremony, although the Wilberforce faculty will make that final decision.
“William was the epitome of what you would want for any young man. This is a huge loss for the university and his home community,” said athletic director Derek Williams.