Tyner guard Javon Craddock (2) shoots into Stratford forward Kevonte Boyd (23) during the Rams' TSSAA Class AA state basketball quarterfinal against Stratford at the Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University on Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
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David Cook

As he does most Wednesdays, JaMichael Heathington, a teacher and coach at Calvary Christian School, began the evening's Bible study — he mentors a group of high school basketball players — by asking for prayer requests.

"Pray for my friend Javon," one guy answered, tears in his eyes. "He just collapsed while we were shooting."

They prayed, then started that night's lesson: how to be a servant of God. How to not take life for granted.

Soon, another text.

It carried news that would shake the entire state.

That night, Wednesday, May 16, Javon Craddock, 16, died while doing what he loved: playing basketball.

"He was probably the best shooter in the state of Tennessee," said Brainerd High coach Levar Brown.

He was also one of the best at living life, consistently eulogized as one of the finest young men in the city.

"He impacted a lot of people just by being himself," Brown said. "He was of a different kind."

That evening, the Tyner High sophomore was playing at the Boys and Girls Club, when he collapsed, taken to a nearby hospital, and later pronounced dead. Was it cardiac arrest? A seizure? The exact cause of death has not been announced.

"He was just flat out a great kid. A coach's dream," said his Tyner coach, E'Jay Ward. "He made waking up in the morning a lot easier when you know you're going to be around him."

The evening of Javon's death, Heathington, 29, who also coaches an AAU team called The East Tennessee Kings, watched his Bible study guys grieve. While he never knew Javon, he did realize he had to do something.

The idea came to him — he believes from God — later that night.

"Let's get these guys certified," he said. "If they're out playing in gyms or swimming pools or riding bikes or out in the sun, and anybody passes out, they are prepared."

On June 12, Heathington and the American Heart Association's We R CPR are hosting certification classes, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (There will be three, two-hour sessions at Spring Creek Baptist Church in East Ridge. The cost is $10 per person.)

When he posted the event on Facebook, his page lit up.

"Five thousand views," he said.

Across town, on the same night, Brown and Kelsey Watson — Brown coached against Javon at Brainerd, Watson was one of Javon's AAU Chattanooga Elite coaches — were at the hospital when a similar idea emerged.

"We need to be educated and trained on how to respond in those kind of situations," Brown said.

They've organized a CPR training class for area coaches.

"I'm begging any area coach and anyone working with area children to please come," Brown said.

This coaches' clinic starts on June 2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Brainerd High.

Coaches from as far as Knoxville will be there.


Last winter, after an in-game fight between Brainerd and Austin East, the two teams were ordered to meet and provide community service, once in Knoxville and once here.

So June 2, the Austin East team and coaches will be in Brainerd for further reconciliation. And discussions on sportsmanship. Players from both teams will host a clinic for middle schoolers while coaches will get trained in CPR and defibrillators.

If you can't go, you can still help.

Chattanooga Elite needs donations to pay for added training so more coaches can sign up. (To help, email

Heathington's East Tennessee Kings could use donations to help this season. (

Most importantly, Javon's family, friends and teammates need love.

"Pray for us," Ward said.

For more information on the coaches' clinic, email Levar Brown at

For more information on the June 12 event, email Jamichael Heathington at


Like Javon, Reuben Summerlin lived a life built on contagious kindness and joy. A career that began in the Peace Corps was followed by micro-finance work in Haiti and with the United Nations.

Like Javon, he died too young.

On July 6, 2015, Summerlin, 44, died after being struck by a van while riding his bike in Fiji.

Two years later, on July 30, 2017, his older brother Dan, 48, beloved by so many in Chattanooga, died from cancer.

On the day of Dan's funeral, his old friend John Major drove to Red Bank High, where both Summerlins graduated, and handed principal Elaine Harper a check.

He created the Summerlin Scholarship.

"To help some exemplary kids who are looking for help with funding their college careers while honoring Dan and Reuben," Major said.

The requirements: a 3.5 GPA and demonstrated interest in service. The winner receives $1,500 for college tuition.

It's been funded by friends and family, but Major and former Red Bank teacher Pam Boaz want to make this self- sustaining for decades to come.

Two weeks ago, the Summerlin Scholarship was awarded to Allana Tate.

"I have the heart to help people," she wrote in her application. "I have the heart to bring a change to the world."

Just like Reuben.


And Javon.

Checks may be made to Red Bank High School, 640 Morrison Springs Road 37415, with Summerlin Scholarship in the memo.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfree or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook at DavidCookTFP.