‘CALL MY MOM’
TRAGIC LAST WORDS OF BELOVED TEEN SHOT AT BRONX PARTY
Hours before a collegebound Bronx basketball star was fatally shot, he made a quick phone call to his uncle to talk about the future.
Brandon Hendricks, 17, had just graduated from Metropolitan Soundview High School last week and he needed a little cash — and some advice — before heading out for a friend’s birthday barbecue on Sunday.
“We spoke [at around] 9:30 last night,” said Hendricks’ devastated uncle, Noel Ellison. “Two hours later, he was gone.”
“We were talking about the things he had to do in preparation to go to college,” Ellison said outside the family’s Melrose home — across the street from a growing sidewalk memorial to honor the slain teen.
“He was nothing but a beautiful, stellar child, a youngster beloved by everyone he comes across,” said Ellison, who often attended church with his nephew. “He’s the kid you want your daughter to marry.”
Hendricks was shot in the neck on Davidson Ave. near W. 176th St. in Morris Heights, about 2 miles from home, just before midnight Sunday, cops said.
His friend Hammad Singleton, 18, said he was with Hendricks at the cookout when the gunshots exploded.
“In the blink of an eye, [Hendricks] is running. I turned around, he called me, ‘I got hit!’ ” Singleton told the Daily News.
“I grabbed him and we’re running. I’m like ‘C’mon c’mon, we can’t stop right here,’ ’cuz there was more shots going on. He started wobbling so I sat him down. My friend took off his Tshirt. I’m holding it for him and I’m talking to him. [I asked], ‘You good, Bro’? He’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m OK.’
“[I asked again], ‘You good, Diddy? Wake up, wake up!’ ” said Singleton, referring to Hendricks by his nickname. “He’s trying to smile, talk to me, ‘Yo, Bam I love you! Call my mom. Make sure you call my mom, Bro.’
“And that was the last words he said, and he closed his eyes. I tried to hold him … I didn’t know what to do. My phone was dead. I was like in panic mode.”
“It really wasn’t meant for us,” he said of the shooting, noting neither he nor Hendricks were drinking or doing drugs at the party. “He don’t deserve that, and I don’t deserve to see my friend die right in front of my face.”
Medics rushed the teen to St. Barnabas Hospital, but he could not be saved. There have been no arrests.
“He didn’t do drugs, no gangs,” the teen’s grieving mom, Eve Hendricks, told reporters. “He had a basketball scholarship. He was going to college.”
The senseless death comes amid a stunning spike in shootings in the last week, with 63 incidents citywide — a total of 85 people shot, seven fatally — between June 22 and June 28, police said Monday.
During the same period last year, there were 26 shooting incidents — with 33 people shot and nine fatalities, police data show.
Hendricks — a beloved team captain for the Monroe Eagles — had no criminal record.
“He looked out for his fellow teammates and he was very, very supportive,” his coach, Nigel Thompson, told The News. “[They] loved him, even though he was the captain and sometimes he had to ride them a bit and push them. He just always found a way to do it in such a positive way.”
“He was just a very respected basketball player. He has a quick handle, you know a quick dribbler, and gets it to the basket quickly, a solid defender,” he added. “He was always respectful, always always. Always humble. And those are some of the qualities about him that will be severely missed.”
Another friend of Hendricks, CJ Riley, 17, said he saw the teen at the hospital just before he died.
“When I got to the hospital, he was already clinging onto his life,” said Riley, who has known Hendricks since the sixth grade. “Last time I seen my friend was yesterday, before it happened. He was happy, he was so enthusiastic, he was ready to go out for the night. I didn’t wanna see him with his eyes closed, lying down, even at the funeral.”
“I met him when I was in middle school. One of my coaches transferred him to play basketball at my middle school, and we’ve been best friends since then on,” he said. “He pushed me to be better in basketball, he was like a role model to me. “
Brandon Ellis, 21, who used to square up against Hendricks on the court, praised his former opponent’s devotion to the game.
“He just work hard and wanted to perfect his craft every day and including with his pride, confidence and being a leader,” Ellis told The News in a text message. “Everyone knew he [was] gonna be special … Everybody in [the] basketball community of NYC hurt with this one. All he wanted to do [was] smile, play ball and go to school for free.”
Thompson said the talented young point guard, who would have turned 18 in next month, was leaning toward attending a junior college in California, and hoped one day to become a physical education teacher or physical therapist.
“[Graduation] was a very proud moment for myself and for his family. His mom prays for him constantly, for his safety and to graduate and to move on to the next phase of his life,” said Thompson, who was also Hendricks’ 10th grade geometry teacher.
“My daughter usually calls him my son because he wasn’t just a basketball player to me,” he said. “I said during his senior day, which is the last basketball game at our school, I said to the crowd that if I had a son, I would be honored if he was half as a decent person as Brandon was.”
Memorial honors Brandon Hendricks (below) in the lobby of his Bronx home. Friends and family (above r.), raising five fingers for Hendricks’ jersey number, hold vigil for basketball star on court by his home. Below r., signed basketballs salute slain teen.