Javonte Clanton's high school teachers and coaches remembered the 2006 Reynoldsburg High School graduate as a strong leader with a strong faith.

Javonte Clanton's high school teachers and coaches remembered the 2006 Reynoldsburg High School graduate as a strong leader with a strong faith.

Clanton, 20, died in a March 18 car crash in West Virginia. He was a starting guard for the University of South Carolina-Aiken basketball team. Authorities believe he fell asleep at the wheel while driving north on Interstate 77 and crashed into a tree.

Clanton's funeral was held at noon March 24 at the First Church of God on Refugee Road. He was buried at Glen Rest Memorial Estate.

Chris Rider, varsity boys basketball coach at RHS, said he and other coaches and teachers are discussing ideas about what to do in Clanton's honor, such as establishing a scholarship fund in his name, but have not decided on anything yet.

He was a star basketball player while attending RHS and, according to his coaches and teachers, was a good student and a good person.

High school health teacher Scott Walters was Clanton's junior varsity basketball coach. He said the news of Clanton's death last week was a shock.

"He was the kind of player that made all of the other players better, and the kind of player that made the coaches better, too," Walters said. "He was a real leader, strong, strong-willed -- he would get on his teammates if he didn't think they were playing hard, and always in a constructive way, he was really a good kid."

English teacher and assistant varsity coach Steve Tartt said he was devastated when he heard of Clanton's death.

He said Clanton was a solid student who lived right and had a strong faith.

"I've been out there coaching for 15 years and he was one of the kids I was closest with out of all of them, so I took it pretty hard he was also a solid student, just a good kid," Tartt said. "Even away from the basketball court, we would talk about life and he was always trying to do better and uplift his family, really, especially his grandmother.

"Knowing Javonte, he was always happy and always had a smile on his face and he would want us to go on living."

Rider said Clanton loved basketball and was a "gym rat."

"He was always playing always practicing individually, and that's one of the things that really separated him from other players," Rider said. "He was about as good as you could be. He was first team all league, player of the year in 2006, first team all central district and first team all-Ohio.

"I'm still in a little bit of a shock, and it doesn't seem real right now," he said. "It's hard on all of us. He was one of the best players I had and played on one of the best teams I ever had."

He said Clanton attended the University of Niagara in New York his freshman year of college before transferring to the University of South Carolina-Aiken.

The night before Clanton's accident, his team, the Pacers, played in their first appearance in the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament, where they lost to the Augusta State Jaguars 85-57.

According to Jackson County, W. Va., Chief Deputy B.W. Dewees, Clanton was traveling north on I-77 when his car ran off the road and over an embankment.

The car became airborne before hitting the ground and flipping over several times.

"He was ejected from the car and the car struck a tree all about the same time," Dewees said.

He said it appeared Clanton fell asleep at the wheel. There was no indication that alcohol was involved, he said.

Clanton is survived by his grandmother Brenda F. Clanton; his mother, Sharonda Clanton, brother, Deaunte, and sister, DeoJane.

dowen@thisweeknews.com

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