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Jeff Eisenberg

Charity game shows what Tobi Oyedeji meant to his community

A $5 ticket to Wednesday night's charity basketball game between two of Houston's premier high school programs didn't just guarantee fans two hours of high-scoring entertainment.

It also ensured that they would drive home assured that tragedy really does bring out the best in their community.

A standing-room-only crowd packed 4,500-seat Delmar Fieldhouse to celebrate the life of Tobi Oyedeji, the 17-year-old Texas A&M recruit killed in a car crash early Sunday morning. Undefeated Yates edged Oyedeji's grief-stricken Bellaire team, 100-93, but the winner and loser won't be what fans remember years later.

They'll remember that Bellaire, to honor Oyedeji, began the game with four players on the floor until the first dead ball. They'll remember that every player on both teams wore Oyedeji's No. 35. They'll remember the graciousness of former Houston-area high school stars DeAndre Jordan and Nic Wise, who served as celebrity coaches because state rules prohibited either team's staff from coaching an unsanctioned game.

Maybe most of all, they'll remember the heartfelt pregame speech Bellaire point guard Jonathan Evans delivered to honor his fallen teammate. Choking back tears, Evans explained why he and his teammates suggested playing this game.

"Today, instead of mourning Tobi's death, we're coming to celebrate," Evans told the crowd. "We're coming to celebrate the life of a remarkable human being. Today, we celebrate Tobi."

Proceeds from the game will go to Oyedeji's family, several members of which were among the crowd at the game. Also there was the Texas A&M coaching staff, which has been in Houston with the family since Sunday.

Maybe most amazing of all is that the NCAA showed some humanity, bending its rulebook to grant Texas A&M a waiver to pay for its players' travel expenses to attend Friday's funeral. The NCAA also is allowing the school to help foot the bill for the Oyedeji family's hospital and travel expenses.

A kinder, gentler NCAA? See, tragedy does really bring out the best in us.

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