Sad endings, one senseless, one inevitable, both heartbreaking

One day into his 18th year, Devin Myers checked out of Huntington High to go get a haircut.

One month into his 85th year, Jimmy Orton was bedridden and weak from the effects of a stroke that had robbed him of his energy and mobility, but not his mind and his wit.

One day into his 18th year, Myers’ teammates found themselves no longer preparing for a quarterfinal playoff game as their coach Mack Jones tried to help them make sense of something so senseless.

One month into his 85th year, Orton continued to treasure a life that was full of incredible athletic accomplishments.

One day into his 18th year, Myers had the principal at Huntington issuing a statement he never imagined possible. “He had a bright future ahead of him,” Matthew Mitchell said. “He was a star basketball player; he was a great student.”

One month into his 85th year, Orton could sense that his time on this Earth was coming to a close.

Devin Myers and Jimmy Orton never met or ever heard of each other, but their athletic lives intersected with their deaths occurring in the span of a few hours.

Both deaths should give you pause. Myers had a life full of tomorrows and Orton had a life full of yesterdays.

Myers, a talented starter on the Huntington basketball team, was killed Thursday when he was struck in the back by five bullets (a suspect is now in custody). His future, starting with a Class 4A playoff game tonight, was completely ahead of him.

Orton, one of the greatest all-around athletes Shreveport has ever produced, was quite a contrast. His body was frail and his weight had dropped to almost 100 pounds. “I don’t think I’m going to get out of this one,” he told a friend a week ago.

And then there is the story of the Huntington girls basketball players, who found out about the murder of their classmate only an hour before they were to take the floor in Hammond yesterday against Warren Easton in the state semifinals. The Lady Raiders somehow battled until the final buzzer, losing by four to the state’s No. 1 4A team.

According to one local talent scout, Myers was a potential college basketball recruit. He may not have been the star player for the Raiders, but the junior was an honorable mention All-District pick who always stepped up when needed on both ends of the floor.

Orton was an All-City quarterback at Fair Park, an All-City guard in basketball, and an All-City shortstop in baseball on the 1957 state championship team. He later played at Louisiana Tech and was drafted by the New York Yankees and played five years in the minor leagues.

The first number ever retired at Fair Park High School was Jimmy Orton’s 10.

He returned to Fair Park to start a coaching career and took the Indians to a state football championship in a memorable game played across the street at what is now Independence Stadium.

Orton stayed active in athletics long after his pro career ended, playing pickup basketball and tennis for many years.

“He was a legend,” said longtime friend Billy Grisham. “And as nice a guy as you’d ever want to meet.”

Orton, who loved getting together for lunch on occasion with some of the legendary athletes from days gone by, passed away late Wednesday night. They’ll leave a spot for him at their next get together.

There is one more piece of sad irony in the events of these last couple days. Myers was killed in the 3500 block of Lillian Street in the Queensborough neighborhood, near the corner of San Jacinto Avenue.

If you drive south on San Jacinto for 11 blocks – less than a mile — you’ll come to the campus of Fair Park, once a cornerstone of Shreveport’s school system, now, a middle school.

Where Jimmy Orton was able to create the same kind of athletic memories that Devin Myers hoped he could accomplish one day.