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Local college hoops players, homeless advocate revere influence of Kobe Bryant

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Basketball fans around the world are still coming to grips with the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant, who was among nine people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in southern California.

Many in Fort Wayne say it will be a long time before his memory and impact begin to fade.

NBA all-time great Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash.

Bryant was a jaw dropping talent, scoring more than 33,000 points in a 20-year career.

The 18-time all-star led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles.

Jalan Mull, a sophomore on the University of Saint Francis basketball team, who played at Blackhawk Christian here in town, admits there were numerous times growing up that he practiced shooting in his neighborhood, pretending to be Bryant hitting the winning shot.

"His game was incredible, his work ethic, everything about him was just incredible. Family man, did the right things on and off the court, I mean he was just somebody everybody looked up to," Mull said.

U. of Saint Francis basketball player David Ejah says Bryant possessed character traits he tries to emulate.

Disbelief filled David Ejah the moment he heard news reports about the crash, like what so many people felt after learning Bryant and eight others died when the helicopter went down in California.

The one-time Carroll High School standout, who now plays for Saint Francis, admired Kobe's talent and character traits that translated to life beyond basketball.

"I kind of took a lot of things from him, liking working hard, and always like trying to be the first one at the gym, and always just pushing yourself and not giving up and stuff like that," Ejah said.

Fort Wayne Rescue Mission Pastor Donovan Coley says Bryant's care for the homeless leaves a lasting legacy.

Pastor Donovan Coley with the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission believes Bryant had an even more important influence in fighting one of the country's biggest challenges.

He says some years back Bryant and his wife researched charitable causes they could throw their time and energy behind in the Los Angeles area, and they settled on the fight against homelessness.

The Fort Wayne Rescue Mission is connected with two missions in L.A.

Bryant gave personal attention to the problem, spending time at a homeless center for youth.

"And that's what we're asking people in our community to do, is to research and to find ways that can truly impact even what's going on in a community," Pastor Coley said.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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