Nearly 1,000 people gathered to celebrate the legacy of Andrel Norcel Gaines, an all-star basketball player who died at the age of 19 following a . The overall message conveyed from person after person who spoke at the memorial was simple: Andrel Gaines will truly be missed, but not forgotten.
Jeremy Dirks, former basketball coach at , told the audience that Gaines was a scholar athlete and a caring person to everyone he knew. He encouraged attendees to use Gaine's death as motivation to be best they can be.
“All of us here, we have opportunities left. We have time left, we have time to make the most of them, and to use Andrel for an inspiration," Dirks said during the memorial service in the Gavilan College gymnasium, Saturday.
"Don’t use it as an excuse to [say] ‘Hey, I’m going to skip class today,’ go to class. Andrel doesn’t get to go to class today—you get to. Andrel doesn’t get to get that A—you do. And keep that in the back of your mind.”
Katherine Francisco lead the audience in a prayer for Andrel, with Kendra Randolph performing “My God is Real” afterward.
Dirks read cards provided by Andrel's family members and friends, and ended with an acknowledgement reading provided by Andrel’s family.
“There are no words that can explain the overwhelming amount of support we’ve received for our son, Andrel. For everyone of Andrel’s friends and family who drove to the hospital to see and pray for him, we thank you. For everyone who sent a card, we thank you,” Dirks read.
Andrel leaves behind his father Kenya Gaines, his mother Juliana Avila, his sister Kenisha and his brother Téja, as well as his grandparents Josef “Louie” Avila, Bobbie and Jonh Gaines, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Anthony Avila read his nephew’s obituary, proudly telling the audience of the numerous awards Andrel received, but "never mentioned because he was so humble, and believed them to be nothing out of the ordinary.” He spoke of Andrel leading the Gilroy High basketball team as a point guard, and how it was Andrel’s wish to make everyone a better player.
“His unselfishness was on display every time he stepped onto the court,” Avila read. “In many eyes, Andrel may have been just another ball player, but in our eyes, Andrel will always be remembered as a legend.”
Avila spoke of Andrel’s special relationship with his little brother Téja, explaining how Téja idolized Andrel and how Andrel always set aside time so they could play. He also added that Andrel’s grandmother, Carolyn Avila, passed away on Nov. 19, just one day after Andrel's death.
During the remark period, the Gavilan basketball team approached the lectern, along with many others, to speak of their friend. Andrel’s teammate, Austin Vojvoda, told the audience how their coach, Tito Addison, taught him and Andrel to pay attention to details and how Andrel is a detail he’ll never forget.
“Andrel really understood details, that’s why he was such a good basketball player. We would stay after practice, replaying complex details of the game. Andrel also noticed the simple details, like how many times I wore the same shirt, and how many more girls looked at him today than yesterday,” Vojvoda said as the audience laughed.
“Losing Andrel makes us replay and hold onto all the details we share with him. Gavilan College basketball without Andrel will be a detail that I will never forget. Coach was right, pay attention to details, make them count and appreciate them. Andrel filled our lives with amazing details, that we will carry on forever—keeping him alive forever.”
Several of Andrel's friends performed raps and songs throughout the two-hour service.
Omar De La Torre performed an original rap titled "#Pray for Andrel," in honor of the Twitter prayer chain that was created shortly after the .
“It’s crazy how life happens. Life is so precious, we all take it for granted, never know what’s going to happen. Just one action or one little decision can change everything that you once envisioned. Enjoy the strength that we know defines you, because we will never find another soul just like you. I watched you grow from a boy to a man, and it happened so fast. We won’t ever give up, can’t wait to see you back on the court playin’ pickup. This is just a hick-up, there ain't more on the ride, so get your strength up and wipe your mama’s eyes. Kenisha, I love you, give Téja a kiss—tell the world it’s too soon for you to be missed.”
Tevin Mercer, a lifelong friend of Andrel, performed another original rap titled "Miracle."
“Surrounded by family and friends all here for you, at experience there was never any fear of you. Gotten everybody prayin’, and I know that you can hear it too. And I can honestly say, you’ve impacted all our lives in a positive way. Whether it’s a big smile or that hybrid swag, I will cherish all the moments and the times we had, and I’ve known you for a while, age 11 till today, and you’ll smile, put a smile up on every body's face. Never jealously and hate, more like humble and nice, and I know you’re going to get through it, over comin’ the fight. So, pray for Andrel, turn the topic all around, the whole entire world, bro I know you’d be so proud. Yeah, it’s times like this you learn to cherish life, I know you’re in a better place—paradise.”
An Andrel Gaines scholarship fund has been created to honor Andrel, and to support Gilroy High School seniors. Dirks said the Gilroy High School alumni team will play annual games and donate the proceeds to the fund each year.