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Archbishop Stepinac finds sense of community after death of former player

By Cait Kemp

Sports push the barrier of being “just a game” almost every day. Outside of wins and losses, athletics provide something that can sometimes be difficult to find elsewhere – a sense of community. When tragedy strikes, suddenly a game that only seemed important for the outcome means so much more than what’s on the scoreboard.

In November of 2022, Jayden Goodridge was walking down a street in the Bronx with his friend. Mistaken for rival gang members, the pair were shot at, and the gunfire killed Goodridge.

Goodridge graduated in 2019 from Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, N.Y. At Stepinac, Goodridge was a member of the boys basketball team. Basketball is what seemed to bring him the most joy.

During his time in high school, Goodridge was a part of the varsity B team. He also played on an AAU team, where his coach described him as being dependable and having a big heart, according to a New York Post article.

Patrick Massaroni, the head coach of the Stepinac varsity A team, did not coach Goodridge, but had the opportunity to get to know him.

“Working in the building, I got a chance to interact with him on a daily basis,” Massaroni said. “He was such a bright and outgoing kid who got put in an unfortunate situation there on that day.”

Although Goodridge had graduated several years ago, his legacy was well-known at the school by faculty and students due to his outgoing personality, which made him shine.

He was recognized in his environment for his lovable character and bright persona.

Stepinac honored him by creating a GoFundMe page – helping to offset expenses for his family. Massaroni said that the school is also working on a way for the varsity B team to honor him at a greater level, showing that his memory will live on with Stepinac and the basketball program.

“Obviously, we miss him and we’re still discussing what we would do with our varsity B team to honor him,” Massaroni said. “It’s just tragic, what happened to him, and I still think about him, and so do many in the school and alumni.”

Stepinac competed in the 2023 Spalding Hoophall Classic on Sunday evening, two months after this news shook their community. Goodridge’s memory stays close to them as they continue to play the sport he loved so much. Despite a 52-39 loss against Simeon Career Academy (IL) at Hoophall, Stepinac played with a sense of togetherness that demonstrated its skill in the game.

Massaroni shared how the memory of Goodridge is reflected by the older players and alumni who had the chance to get to know him. The love for him is evident, as many social media posts could be seen after Goodridge’s passing. Now, two months later, Massaroni is still seeing posts in memoriam of Goodridge and the genuinity that he portrayed in his life. His circle is there for him, just as he seemed to always be present for everyone in his life.

“I just saw somebody post on their Instagram story about him the other day,” Massaroni said. “‘I still miss you Jayden,’ or as his lot referred to him – ‘Jiggy’ was his nickname. With his 4-foot-10, 4-foot-11 stature, such a tiny kid, he was so outgoing and beaming with brightness and always an outgoing personality. Kids still think about him to this day and so do I.”

Goodridge’s passing has reminded Stepinac about the importance of community. The tragedy has brought the school, basketball team and alumni closer as they cope with the unthinkable incident.

Photo: Daniel Curren/The Springfield Student

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