By Zach Chouteau
It’s hard to imagine how she’s carried on, but Chantee Nealy has managed to turn the deep pain of losing her 17-year-old son to gun violence last year into promise by forming a youth basketball team in her child’s honor.
Chrisean Nealy, a star basketball player beloved by his family and friends, was killed at the Bella Vista Apartment complex in Richmond about 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2016. About six months later, a Contra Costa County grand jury indicted a man for his murder.
The loss has left an unimaginable hole in Nealy’s heart. She’s managed to fill it up some by creating Ball in Peace Angels (BIP), a team that’s on a quest now to win ballgames and, more importantly, to spread peace and love, give back to the community and keep alive the memories of Chrisean.
Composed of kids ranging from six to 14 years in age, the BIP Angels currently hold an 18-5 overall record with their split squad, divided between those older and younger than 10 years in age. They’re not only an organized AAU team, but have even become an official 501c3 foundation as well.
“I used to ask myself, ‘why me?’” Chantee Nealy told the Standard at a recent practice at the Richmond Recreation Complex. “But now I’m just going to keep fighting for these kids. All of us are family, and I just want to keep it going.”
Nealy chose basketball as an outlet for her grief as it was a huge passion for Chrisean, who starred at De Anza and Kennedy High Schools, was headed for LSU, and was believed by many to have NBA potential.
She has had ample support from players’ parents and her husband Christopher, with her son Chriseanie Nealy a team star and his younger sister Crystal one of the Angels’ biggest fans. Also stepping up to the plate have been Team Manager Damonique Tupuola and Coach Mataio Tupuola-Mair, ably assisted on the bench by Jerren Thrower and Matthew Bonds.
The BIP Angels have numerous games on the horizon, both near and far, even traveling to Reno, Nev. and Las Vegas in 2018 for tournaments. For a chance to see them in action locally, considering attending the long-running Candy Cane Classic in Richmond on December 8-10, to be held at the Richmond Recreation Center, Booker T. Anderson Center and the Richmond Police Athletic League’s facility.
While the team has plenty of moral support, they are self-funded and in serious need of financial backing, to assist with everything ranging from travel expenses to tourney entry fees. Those interested in helping these angels fly even higher can contact Chantee Nealy at her Facebook page.
The Ball in Peace Angels 2017-18 roster
0. Zekai Lumsey
- Matai Anderson
2. Earl Johnson
3. Dyami Wahnee
4. Freeman Watson
5. Javon Hewitt
9. Jozhon Stallworth
10. Chriseanie Nealy
11. Robert Hunter
12. Khari Nealy
14. Deundre Parker
17. Alex Gayton
20. Cesar Hernandez
2. Kamauri Wallace
30. Anthony Krellner
33. Davion Godfrey
34. Khadar Thomas
35. Lynn Mair III