After ‘senseless’ killing, University of St. Mary mourns slain basketball player

Memorial service for Marcus Mondaine

Evette Moore, mother of slain University of Saint Mary student Marcus Mondaine, talks about the impact the school had on her son during a memorial service in Leavenworth. Mondaine was shot and killed in Kansas City.
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Evette Moore, mother of slain University of Saint Mary student Marcus Mondaine, talks about the impact the school had on her son during a memorial service in Leavenworth. Mondaine was shot and killed in Kansas City.

At first, Troy Brown ignored the call he received from a friend late Saturday. The University of St. Mary head basketball coach was at Late Night in the Phog at the University of Kansas, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to hear.

Then, he received the text.

“Did you hear about Marcus?”

Basketball coaches and teammates, as well as school officials at the University of St. Mary, received devastating news Saturday night when they learned that a man who had been shot dead inside a Kansas City home was Marcus Mondaine, a former teammate and current University of St. Mary student.

Twice named the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Week, Mondaine was finishing his final semester in the university’s health information management program after his final basketball season ended this spring.

Teammates and coaches say they have little information about Mondaine’s death. Kansas City police have said they discovered Mondaine on Saturday in a house in the 4000 block of East 56th Terrace after responding to a shots-fired call.

The department identified Damon Hammons as a person of interest related to the shooting. A warrant has been issued for Hammons’ arrest.

After he learned the news, Brown sent a mass text to his players and held a team meeting Sunday. Although Mondaine was no longer eligible to play, he had often showed up to open practices and had promised to be a constant sideline presence.

On Monday morning, the team held its first practice knowing a former teammate would be absent from the season.

“We talked about how the best medicine for this would be to get on the court and play,” Brown said. “The guys are dedicating the season to him.”

According to a GoFundMe account set up to help his family with funeral expenses, Mondaine played varsity basketball for Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in Kansas City for four years. He went on to get his associate degree from State Fair Community College in Sedalia., Mo., before a chance encounter led to his recruitment to St. Mary two years ago.

Brown said he had attended a summer ball game in the summer of 2014 to watch a different player. But the player didn’t show, and Brown found his attention drawn to Mondaine.

“His offensive game wasn’t the greatest,” Brown said. “But his strength was playing defense, and he had a knack for rebounding the basketball. I knew he would lead the team in rebounding.”

Mondaine also was unselfish and kind, both on and off the court, said teammate and friend Grant Greenberg, 22. The pair shared the highs and lows of the basketball season together, Greenberg said, and liked to play video games. Mondaine would come over to Greenberg’s parents’ house for Pizza Friday and always take some leftovers home.

“Personality-wise, he was probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” Greenberg said. “He was so quiet, so humble. Everybody loved him around campus.”

Karenbeth Zacharias, the director for the Lawrence D. Starr Center for Peace & Justice, supervised Mondaine through a work studies program at the center. Mondaine did everything from overseeing the center’s recycling program to helping Zacharias when the center hosted events. Zacharias said Mondaine did his work quietly and thoroughly, always striving not to be “the most important person in the room.”

Occasionally, the two talked about the future, and Mondaine shared his excitement about graduating.

“We were talking about how classes were getting tougher, and he was excited to get done,” Zacharias said. “For him, he was definitely focused on getting to the other side and being a graduate.”

Zacharias said the news of Mondaine’s death has been difficult to grasp.

“It’s just senseless,” she said.

On Monday, rival basketball teams tweeted messages of support and condolences, and some changed their profile pictures to display Mondaine competing in his No. 0 jersey.

University of St. Mary officials planned a moment of silence at an evening volleyball game on campus Monday. On Tuesday, students, faculty and Mondaine’s family plan to hold a prayer service at 7 p.m. in the university’s Annunciation Chapel.

Marcus was a humble, gentle soul who always thought of others first. We stand in prayer with his family as we mourn his loss,” university President Diane Steele said in a statement.

Greenberg said Mondaine was close to his family, particularly a sister who was badly injured in a car accident last year and is still recovering.

“23 and My life haven’t even started yet is the crazy part,” Mondaine had posted on Facebook five days before he died. “I got big plans.”

Katy Bergen: 816-234-4120, @KatyBergen