SCHS mourns loss of student

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cortez Cotton loved basketball. Pulling down rebound after rebound, shutting down the lane with aggressive defense. His shot-blocking ability would always bring a roar from the home crowd at Shelby County High School.

News of Cotton’s death Sunday morning sent shockwaves through his hometown of Columbiana, where teammates, classmates, friends and family will gather at the First Baptist Church for his funeral

Friday at 1 p.m.

Cotton, 18, was killed when the car he was driving early Sunday struck a tree south of Columbiana on County Road 47.

He had just played in a tournament game the night before, scoring 24 points against Jess Lanier at Charles Dickinson Gymnasium, where he shined as a leader of the Wildcats varsity basketball team.

&8220;He loved basketball from the time he was 5 years old,&8221; said Betty Burt, the grandmother who bought Cortez his first goal and hung it in the yard. &8220;He would be out there shooting balls from sunup until sundown.&8221;

After a hug at the door, the first stop at his grandmother’s house was always the refrigerator. Keeping &8220;Tez&8221; clothed and fed was a tall order, Burt said.

Standing 6 feet, 6 inches, Cotton’s height was an advantage on the court, but a hurdle when it came to shopping for clothes. He will be buried Friday in a custom-sized coffin.

&8220;He was a vital part of this school,&8221; said Shelby County principal Gene Rogers. &8220;The senior class is very close and certainly they are mourning the loss of a buddy. He had a ton of friends, he was the kind of kid that everyone liked.&8221;

Shelby County coach Charles Dickinson met with the basketball team Monday morning to discuss the loss of a friend and teammate, whose life was &8220;just cut too short.&8221;

&8220;They are devastated,&8221; Dickinson said. &8220;Basketball, this game that they love so much, is secondary right now. We are just going to take the week off (from basketball) and grieve.&8221;

Dickinson said he will remember Cotton for the progress he made at Shelby County, developing into a &8220;very pleasant young man.&8221;

&8220;I remember the whole journey of this young man that had a hard beginning,&8221; Dickinson said. &8220;As a basketball player he was maturing greatly and as a person he was maturing greatly.&8221;