Boys basketball season prevails in face of tragedy

Varsity Boys Basketball Team Honors Braylon Meade Throughout Season


Meade family and team support to end-of-season

The varsity boys basketball team wrapped up their season with the region semi-finals on Thursday, Feb. 23rd. The team was district runner-ups and celebrated nine seniors, including late senior Braylon Meade.


“The one thing that Braylon had been working for, basically this whole summer and basically his whole basketball career, was this season,” senior and varsity boys basketball team member Brian Weiser said. “Now that it’s over, it’s just sad…that was the one thing that we still kind of had together.” 


Meade had been an instrumental member of the program since his freshman year. While never a starting player, Meade brought the team together by giving each starting player a handshake before each game and was known for putting in the work and a genuine love for basketball.


“We all made up our minds that we were still going to play because that’s what Braylon would’ve wanted us to do,” senior and member of the varsity boys basketball team James McIntyre said. “All of us, we talked, and even a couple of days after [his passing], we still practiced together because we knew it would be way easier if we were together, having people you love around you to get through a tough time.” 


With his parents’ blessing, the team pushed through and continued to show up. They found support through their teammates, leaning on each other when a player had a particularly hard day.


“The high of the year was just the fact we played,” varsity boys basketball coach Robert Dobson said. “The lows were just coming to the gym, not seeing him, not hearing his voice. That was really difficult…. But, the kids showed up every day. They showed up every single day. They came to play, worked hard. That’s all you can ask for. They were good to each other.” 


The team found comfort in each other, and other teams and the greater Arlington community also supported them. Opposing schools, including Yorktown and McLean, wore shooting shirts with Meade’s number, 22, on the back. The Yorktown team also provided a pre-game meal to show their support. 


“Wakefield gave a jersey, on his behalf, with the number 22, so there was a lot of support from other schools, there’s no doubt about that,” Coach Dobson said. “We had pins donated from the librarians with 22 on them…. From Arlington Travel Basketball, people were reaching out and making sure we were okay, which was awesome, for the guys and for me. Just to know that other people were feeling some of the things that you were feeling was always good.”


At first, the team focused on simply showing up. Throughout the season, their emotional state remained a priority, but there came a moment when they began prioritizing performance on the court to a greater extent. This came after a loss to Marshall, which Weiser views as a turning point in the season.


“After we lost to Marshall, we all sat in the locker room for like an hour afterwards, just trying to figure out how we could build off of that… and we made Cody the captain,” Weiser said. “We didn’t really have a captain at that point. It was technically me, but I didn’t really want to be [the captain], because Braylon was probably going to be the leader of the team…. That was probably the turning point of our season. We started winning more games and came closer together as a team.” 


In the second half of the season, the team beat Wakefield, Yorktown, and Marshall. Ultimately, their record was 17-8, a winning record.


“[Basketball] is kind of like medicine, you know?” Coach Dobson said. “Obviously, we all miss Braylon…. The healing part of [basketball] was being able to be with the guys and have a common goal…. I’ve been doing this for 29 years, and every year it’s the same, but this year has been different. Some quality seniors who, obviously, we went through a crazy time together, so we healed together and grew closer because of it.”


Seniors on the team also credit their younger counterparts and each other for pushing through this season. 


“I think some guys on the team stepped up big time this year, especially Collin Lu and Matt Bristol,” senior and team member Cody Cameron said. “The season probably would not have been as successful without their hard work as well, especially from the juniors that didn’t get to play but kept pushing us hard in practice.” 


The team’s win over Wakefield occurred on senior night. Before the game, each senior walked out with their parents and family. Meade’s parents, Ms. Rose Kehoe and Mr. Kris Meade were  the last to walk out. In between them was Yorktown senior Christine Wilson, Meade’s girlfriend of three years. Behind and surrounding them was the rest of the team.


“We always knew that [on senior night] we weren’t going to have [the Meades] walk alone, we were going to walk with them to show that we were there for them,” McIntyre said. “Senior night was pretty emotional, but we were able to get through it and win the game, which I’m pretty sure Braylon would be proud of.”


The Meades have remained involved throughout the season. At least one was present for every game, excluding one in Virginia Beach, and sported T-shirts made by the program to honor Meade. Before each game, the starting players would do their handshake they had with Meade to the air and then hug his parents.


“I think [Braylon’s parent’s’] strength also gave us strength,” Coach Dobson said. “Seeing them in the stands always just blew me away, and how they made it to every single basketball game… They were awesome.”


Other senior night events included a check of $2,222 to the Braylon Meade Memorial Scholarship Fund. This was money from fundraising throughout the year. 


“We also put his jersey on our bench [throughout the season], and I think we’re going to continue to do that,” Coach Dobson said. “We [also] are getting his number in a circle put in the gym, and that will always be there, because that’s where he was, that’s where he loved to be…. As long as I’m here, 22 will not be worn by a varsity player. It’s the least that I can do.”


Wilson and the team have found other ways to honor Meade when not on the court. Leading up to his birthday on Dec. 22, they participated in “22 acts of kindness.” Each participant chose a few acts of kindness and passed out cards describing the project afterward. Weiser made cookies for a custodian who Meade knew, and Cameron donated to charity.


“We took pictures of us doing [the 22 acts of kindness] and then on Braylon’s birthday, we were all at the Meade’s house with a bunch of people…, and the 22 acts of kindness was a surprise for the birthday,” Wilson said. “We all went around in a circle and said what we did and it was really special, the Meades really loved that.”


Meade has been in the thoughts and actions of many students and community members since his passing. The senior class is putting together a memorial plaque for the gym, and other reminders of him are present throughout the school.


“Elijah Hughes’s mom recently planted a bunch of tulips in the shape of a 22 on the corner of W-L where the sign is,” Wilson said. “The accident happened right outside my house, and there was a baby tree that was knocked down by his car, and so we’re going to work with our neighbors whose property it is to have a new tree planted there. We think it will probably be a dogwood since those are often in honor of people who have passed, and I think we’re going to get a plaque and have something written there for Braylon too.” 


Wilson also hopes to start a garden at the preschool that she and Meade attended together.


“I really like the idea of planting things and planting trees and stuff in honor of him because it’s like something can grow out of [his passing].” Wilson said.


Recently, Meade was accepted to the University of Michigan. Meade had been a fan of the school throughout his life, and Wilson believes this is where he would have ended up.


“The fact that he got into University of Michigan is a pretty big deal,” Wilson said. “I know at the vigil someone had mentioned that, like, ‘oh, you were gonna go to Northeastern’ [in reference] to Braylon, because I’m going to go to Northeastern and we had talked about that. He applied, but I think he would have ended up at Michigan. I kind of wanted that for him. Not because I didn’t want him to go to my school, but his whole family is obsessed with Michigan. They’re very into Michigan and it’s so hard to get into. So, I feel like the fact that he got in there is worth mentioning and I think it’s really cool… The Meades are having his acceptance letter framed.”


Meade will graduate and receive an honorary diploma this June, along with his teammates.


“I tell the guys all the time that I’m blown away that [they] are putting on a jersey and actually coming out here, because I don’t know if I could have done that at 16 or 17 years old,” Coach Dobson said. “These guys are so tough and resilient. I’m just proud to be their coach.”


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