CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Kianna Denson needed a moment as she spoke to the crowd gathered in King High School's Roby Gym on Friday. She'd been in that gym many times to watch her son Je'Sani Smith play for the Mustangs, but this time she couldn't help but get choked up.
The King boy's basketball team held a ceremony at halftime of the girls basketball game to honor Smith by retiring his jersey number. Smith drowned in April 2019 while swimming with friends in the gulf near Whitecap Beach.
"It's a tremendous honor that our school honored our son and retired his number," Denson said.
Head boys basketball coach Sean Armstrong said he chose to hold it during the girls game, instead of during the boys game that followed, because he knew his players might be emotional.
"These guys all played with him," Armstrong said. "A lot of our varsity guys are seniors. They played with him last year. You know, we just want to honor him."
They honored Smith with a banner in the gym and a framed jersey for the school's trophy case. Both feature Smith's playing number -- 12 -- a number that's now retired at King High School.
"We're very very grateful to be a part of the King Mustang family," Smith's father Terrance Denson said. "Our son loved this place. This was his second home. If he wasn't at home, he would be here. So this is really special to us."