Theo Smalling, the popular senior team captain of the Hampton University men’s basketball team, was killed early Saturday in what police are calling an accidental shooting in a nightclub parking lot.
The 22-year-old was shot in the abdomen after another man, 21-year-old Dominique Devon Smith, mishandled a pistol, said police, who have charged Smith with reckless handling of a firearm.
There’s a countdown clock on the front page of Hampton’s basketball web site which shows 17 days and a handful of minutes remaining until the Pirates being their season, Nov. 14 at LaSalle. Running next to the clock is the university release on Smalling’s death; a sad juxtaposition which serves as a reminder of just how fragile life can be. Even if you’re 22.
A tribute to Smalling will be held tonight at 7 p.m., ET, and can be heard live on WHOV Radio 88.1 FM.
“Theo was the model for the term student athlete. He was a terrific student and an all-star athlete. In addition, he was actively involved in a great deal of community service. I and the Hampton University family will truly miss him,” said HU President Dr. William R. Harvey.
“This is a devastating loss for our community,” said HU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Edward Buck Joyner. “He was a great young man who was an assest to Hampton University on and off the court. Not only was he the captain and leader of our team, but the backbone of our team. He will be with us in our hearts and minds when we step on the court.”
Smalling is a Boston native who played high school basketball at Bloomingdale High in Tampa, Fla., where he averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds a game as a senior and earned All-County and All-State Honorable Mention. He led Hampton last season with 100 rebounds, a 5.3 average. The Pirates finished 8-8 in the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference, 15-15 overall.
“He was real outgoing, that guy knew everybody,” Callum Townsend, who played high school basketball with Smalling, told the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. “…It’s really hard to take my mind off of it (his death). It’s more of a thing I can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet he’s not with us anymore.”