An outpouring of love for Deante Strickland
The building didn't exist when he chose to be a part of it.
But the energy and passion Deante Strickland poured into Viking Pavilion overflowed there again on Wednesday afternoon.
Family, friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, university leaders and community members all came to honor Strickland, the Portland State athlete who died on Aug. 2 at age 22.
Many of those who gathered — including hundreds of PSU students and athletes — wore specially made "Strickcity" T-shirts, a takeoff on the Trail Blazers' Bill Schonely-inspired "Rip City" moniker for their team and city.
The phrase perfectly fit in the case of the buoyant, 5-foot-something basketball guard out of Central Catholic High whose passions began and ended close to home.
PSU basketball coach Barret Peery, who coached "Strick" the past two seasons, praised him as an "all-in, all-the-time" player and leader.
"He was all-in with his family, with his city and with his teammates," said Peery, who presided over the celebration of life that lasted well over an hour and included moving video memories of Strickland hitting big shots in Viking games.
Peery recalled that when he took over as Portland State coach about 2 1/2 years ago, the Viking Pavilion was little more than a vision under construction as the arena that be home for PSU athletics and events. Strickland was coming off a couple of years at Casper College in Wyoming, and weighing options for where to continue his basketball career.
Peery went to Deante's mother, Teresa, and told her, "We've got to bring him home." The coach got Deante to visit and got the big LeBron James fan to consider taking his talents to the Park Blocks.
Deante caught the vision and signed with the Vikings.
"He wanted to be here," Peery said. "He was passionate about Portland. It meant something to him to have Portland State on his chest. It really did."
Strickland played in every game his first season (2017-18) with the Viks, starting 10 and averaging 7.7 points in 20 minutes per game. He was even more productive as a senior, averaging 13.3 points and 3.5 assists while shooting .521 from the field and .522 from 3-point range down the stretch. He also ranked seventh in the Big Sky with 1.3 steals, setting a school record with nine in one game. His 3 in the final seconds led PSU to a big win at Weber State, and he scored 19 or more points four times.
And Strickland had made himself into more than a major-college basketball player. He was going for a masters degree, and he had turned out for football and was working hard to contribute this season as a running back/receiver when he was shot and killed at a family home near Northeast 42nd Avenue and Holman Street. His sister, Tamena Strickland, has been charged with murder, along with two counts of attempted murder in the shooting of two female family members.
Strickland had starred in basketball and football at Central Catholic.
Rams football coach Steve Pyne, one of several speakers Wednesday, recalled how as a freshman Strickland made an immediate and huge impression.
"I thought, 'This kid's different. His attitude is infectious. His smile is contagious. And everyone is drawn to him," Pyne said.
But after doing "spectacular things" as a high school freshman and budding varsity football player, Strickland told Pyne he wanted to concentrate on basketball.
Pyne was able to coax Strickland back into a football uniform his senior year, and the Rams won the state championship.
Making himself a success was a Strickland specialty, and it began at an early age.
Two of his teachers and mentors from Irvington School, Kitty Holden (kindergarten) and Karen Barker (math), recalled Wednesday how the youngster won them over gradually with his effort and commitment.
Holden said he told her right from the start that "I play basketball, and I like football."
He wound up becoming an amazing tumbler, at well, who would get to the school gym every day at 6:45 a.m., so he could have 15 minutes to work on his technique.
Barker said Strickland "blossomed into a leader," with the support of his mother.
Strickland stayed with basketball, of course, through years with youth and travel teams.
Canaan Chatman and David Shephard, who both worked with him with Inner City Players, remembered him as "a bundle of energy" who challenged himself and had a determination that inspired others and matched his "world-class smile."
AAU coach Kumbeno "Beno" Memory with I-5 Elite and Hoop Dreams and said Strickland was unforgettable for his "accountability, honesty, hard work, resilience, passion and (for being) one of the best leaders I've ever been around."
After high school, Strickland made the big move to Casper and played for coach Dan Russell, who was among the speakers all moved to tears in recalling their time with him and what he meant to them.
One irony was not lost on Russell.
"He came into my life at a very dark, difficult time for me," Russell said. "I'd just lost my father to cancer. He helped me through that time, and I loved him for it and will never forget it."
But that's just the way he was, Russell said.
"Deante impacted so many lives, it's incredible," he added.
That was clear from the tributes and attendance Wednesday at Viking Pavilion.
"It was so fun to be in his orbit,"
"His electric personality brought us all close to him," Memory recalled.
"One of the best things God did for me was putting 'Strick' in my life," Russell said. "He was legendary."
"Our hearts are broken," Holden said, "but we know he is smiling down on each and every one of us."
"This was a special, special man," Peery said.
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