Najeeb Echols, who was from Chicago, died of a heart attack on Wednesday in Kansas. He was 39. Echols’s wife, Jaime, his daughter, Jada, and his son, Jalen, are all still alive.
Jason Straight, who has known Echols for a long time and is now the basketball coach at Providence-St. Mel, said, “I’m just distraught.” “I had to leave practise, leave school today. He was an unbelievable guy, not just a basketball player. He was a talented singer and piano player.”
Echols was one of the most important players on Young’s 1998 state and city championship team, which is thought to be one of the best in state history.
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Dennis Gates and Cordell Henry and Quentin Richardson, who used to play in the NBA, were the stars of that group. Echols was only a freshman in 1998, but over the next two years he became one of the best scorers in the state and a top 10 prospect in the country.
After he moved from Young to Morgan Park and was ruled ineligible, he had to sit out his whole senior year. Cyrus McGinnis, who worked as an assistant coach at Young in 1998 and now works at Proviso West, said, “This is shocking.” “He was a loving person. I was very close to him.”
“Preps: Chicago Hoops,” a popular TV show that aired on Fox Sports in 2001, was about Straight, Echols, Eddy Curry, and a few other players. When they were in high school, the three stars were good friends, and that hasn’t changed in the last 20 years.
“Eddy and I used to make fun of Jeeb all the time and ask him if he was going to be a baller or a singer,” Straight said. “We were all recently talking about getting together to do a where are they now-type look back on the guys from the show.”
Hearing one of my brother’s left the world last night has me sick. I love you forever brother!! @NajeebEchols I will never forget you were the #1 8th grader in America in our class. Talented and always kind to everyone. Rest in power King!🙏🏿🙏🏿😪😞🙏🏿🙏🏿 pic.twitter.com/CZKRd7T3f8
— 🌎 (@Brandon_B_5) December 14, 2022
Echols went to college in Missouri and Illinois State, where he played basketball. He used to work for Farmers Insurance. In 2012, he started a basketball and track-focused youth sports program for free called Whatever It Takes Premiere Youth Club.
Jada Echols is a good runner and the daughter of Echols. “She is amazing,” Straight said. “She’s had some unbelievable times. [Echols] was really looking forward to her being a collegiate athlete. He was helping her and a lot of other kids.”
Echols’s wife, Jaime, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday night:
“My heart is breaking as I write these words… My husband, teammate, best friend, and the love of my life passed away early this morning. The world has lost an amazing man, but heaven has gained an amazing angel. My husband has earned his wings. His life was wonderfully lived, and is deserving of being wonderfully remembered.”
“The funeral arrangements are pending through Eli and Sons Funeral Home. Jalen, Jada, and I appreciate the love, thoughts, prayers and condolences you all have sent our way. Thank you so much.”
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