Darius Lee killed: Houston Baptist University basketball star died in his hometown Harlem, NY

Lee, 21, led the HBU Huskies in scoring and rebounding, and was among the best defenders in the country.

Brooke Taylor Image
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Darius Lee killed: Houston Baptist star among 9 shot in Harlem, NY
"We are in shock and cannot wrap our heads around this news." Darius Lee was the only victim who was killed in the shooting at an overnight gathering.

HARLEM, New York (KTRK) -- The victim killed in a late-night mass shooting that wounded eight other people in Harlem, New York, was identified as a star basketball player for Houston Baptist University.

The school's athletics department confirmed Darius Lee was the 21-year-old person who died early Monday morning in his hometown.

"HBU is saddened to share the news of the passing of men's basketball player Darius Lee who died of a gunshot wound overnight, after a shooting at a gathering in his hometown of Harlem, New York," an HBU statement read. "Lee was on track to graduate with his bachelor's degree in December and was recently named HBU Robbie Robertson Male Student-Athlete of the Year."

His teammate, Hunter Janacek, said everyone who knew Darius knew he wanted to play professional basketball and would be remembered as the ultimate example of a good player and friend.

"From what he showed the last few seasons, he was going to be the best player at HBU this year," Janacek said. "They are going to lose a lot of scoring, a big heart, and big soul to the team. When you talk about HB basketball you definitely mention Darius Lee."

Lee will be remembered for much more than what he brought to the court, according to his friends and head coach.

People on campus really loved him, Ron Cotrell, HBU's head men's basketball coach, said he was named the male athlete of the year on our campus because not only was he a great player, just the type of player everyone loved being around.

According to his coach, you would never know Lee was a basketball star because he was quiet, humble, and easy-going. The basketball standout was very close with his family and often spoke about his relationship with his mother and sister to his teammates and coach.

"He just loved them dearly," Janacek said. "They took good care of him and he always looked forward to going home and spending time with that family."

According to police, Lee was one of the seven men and two women shot. Police initially were told that two groups were shooting at each other at the scene.

Five of the victims were initially found shot on a footpath over the Harlem River Drive. The others arrived at Harlem Hospital.

"We just think it was a gathering, a barbecue, to that nature," NYPD Deputy Chief Brian McGee said.

It's believed Lee was pronounced dead at the hospital. The other eight victims were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The victims, ranging in age from 21 to 42, were hit just after 12:35 a.m. Monday.

Many of the victims were shot in the torso. There were also injuries to people's legs, back, and even fingers.

One gun was recovered at the scene.

No arrests were immediately made and it was unclear what prompted the shooting.

WATCH: Where the gunfire erupted and where the victims fled

Shannon Sohn in NewsCopter 7 shows where the deadly Harlem mass shooting took place - and where the victims fled.

HBU mourns leader on the court

In the wake of the shooting, Lee's coach expressed grief and confusion over his star's untimely killing.

"Darius was a remarkable young man who loved the Lord, his mom, his family, his teammates, his friends, and his entire HBU family," Cottrell wrote in a statement. "We are in shock and cannot wrap our heads around this news."

In spite of the violent circumstance of Lee's death, Cottrell added that his student-athlete left a positive legacy behind.

"As great of a basketball player as he was, he was an even better person. I can't even think of basketball right now. I can only think of what a light Darius was during his short time on earth. He was a joy to coach and we loved him so much," Cottrell wrote.

HBU's director of athletics, Steve Moniaci, not only expressed sorrow over losing Lee, but also railed over yet another act of gun violence.

"He was a very fine young man who had a very bright future in front of him both on and off the court. This is unfortunately, yet again, another example of the senseless gun violence that seems to be plaguing our country right now and we all pray it will cease," Moniaci wrote in a statement.

Lee's impact on the court was also too hard to ignore.

This past season, he was a second team All-Southland Conference selection after leading Houston Baptist in scoring and rebounding. He was also one of the best defenders in the country, finishing sixth in the nation in steals per game.

Lee attended St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Bronx and was back home for summer break.

ABC13 sister station WABC and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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