KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After losing in the final four of Missouri's high school basketball tournament last year, players and coaches at Hogan Prep Academy say the murder of a teammate helped drive them to become champions last weekend.
The urban core charter school overcame the adversity of violence in their neighborhoods.
All of the players on the boys' basketball team know the challenges of escaping bloodshed and poverty where they live makes it harder for them to find success in life.
In August, many on the team were stunned by the death of Roosevelt Cooper, who had just graduated and was headed down to Missouri State to begin college.
Rosie, as he was known, had been a leader on the team, before someone shot and killed him as he left a barber shop.
The murder, while tragic, served to unify his teammates. Many believe it could have easily been one of them at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Hogan Prep dedicated the season to Rosie and players say his death reinforced an urgency to escape crime and poverty around them by becoming champions.
"It was God’s plan for us, for this to happen," said Rahsaan Collins, a senior. "Losing him, going down to Missouri State, the school he was about to go to, it was all like God’s plan."
The team had a ritual all season of touching Cooper's number 24 jersey before heading out onto the court. His initials were part of their uniform. Rosie was known for his tenacious defense, and Hogan Prep won the championship this year largely based on their toughness in out-rebounding bigger opponents.
Cooper's murder remains unsolved, as police continue investigating.
Players say they can remember Rosie now with a smile, knowing he helped them work harder to achieve success in life.