Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

February 27, 2009

VHS assistant coach passes away

VALDOSTA — Valdosta High assistant basketball coach Derrick James Keaton passed away Thursday morning.

Keaton, who turned 36 on Feb. 15, was a recipient of a kidney transplant and was having complications. He did not report to VHS Thursday morning at his normal time.

Keaton is survived by his wife Ronalda and his three daughters, Shae, age 13, Jarrah age three, and Taniyah, age one.

Keaton had been working at VHS for three years as a health and P.E. teacher.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the loss of our beloved assistant basketball coach Derrick Keaton,” Jennifer Steedley, director of public relations for Valdosta city schools, e-mailed in a statement.

“Mr. Keaton uncharacteristically didn’t come in to work this morning at his normal time which caused coworkers to worry. After making a few calls we were saddened to learn that coach Keaton had passed away. He had been having some health complications recently. Coach Keaton was an outstanding member of the Valdosta City Schools family and our prayers are with his wife and children as well as the young men and women he impacted on the basketball court, in the classrooms and hallway Valdosta High School.”

The Wildcat basketball team learned of Keaton’s passing early Thursday afternoon. Valdosta principal Gary Boling met with his staff not long after to inform them of the news. “He never complained. He was a wonderful human being,” Boling told the Times. “He was a gentle heart and was loved by everyone. No one ever had anything bad to say about him.”

Keaton helped lead the Wildcats to one of their most successful seasons ever this year. The ’Cats are 26-1 this year and won the regular season region title and the region tournament.

They begin their quest for a state championship on Saturday in the state tournament’s first round. Valdosta head coach Rufus McDuffie said as of Thursday evening the game at 6 p.m. Saturday against Greenbrier is still on.

“That’s an incredible group of young men,” Boling said. “They have a lot of talent, but they also have a lot of character. (Keaton) was a great model for our kids and one of the sweetest people.”

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