Fedonta “JB” White was perhaps the best known and most recognizable teen in Santa Fe — a young man whose potential seemed as prodigious as his height.
But in a shocking and heartbreaking moment, White’s promise was extinguished.
White, a 6-foot-8 standout Santa Fe High School basketball player headed to the University of New Mexico, was shot and killed early Saturday morning, a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said.
White, 18, was scheduled to graduate in 2021 but reclassified in the spring so he could play for the Lobos this year. The most highly recruited boys basketball player in Santa Fe since Nick Pino of St. Michael’s in the early 1960s, White recently completed coursework to graduate early, Santa Fe High Principal Carl Marano said.
Authorities arrested 16-year-old Estevan Montoya and charged him with first-degree murder in connection with White’s death.
The sheriff’s office said Montoya shot White around 3:30 a.m. during a fight at a party in Chupadero.
White was rushed to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
In addition to murder, Montoya faces charges of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a handgun and negligent use of a deadly weapon, according to the sheriff’s office.
The house in Chupadero where White was shot sits at the end of a long driveway that was blocked off by police tape Saturday. County assessor records show it is owned by Juventino and Sandra Alva. When reached by phone, Juventino Alva declined to comment.
White’s shocking death left those who knew him and rooted for him grief-stricken — unable to believe the sensitive kid whose mere presence at an elementary school would draw dozens of adoring admirers was gone.
“The whole thing is just surreal,” Marano said. “He was an incredible young man who was getting ready to fulfill his dream and be a Lobo.”
Adrienne Cole, the wife of Santa Fe High head boys basketball coach Zack Cole and a cousin of White, said the family did not want to comment in depth about White’s death.
“Our entire family is devastated,” Adrienne Cole said. “We need lots of prayers, all of us.”
Much had been expected of White on the basketball court, almost from the moment he stepped onto Santa Fe High’s campus at Siringo Road and Yucca Street. And often, he had delivered.
He was named to the Class 5A All-State second team after averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds in 2019-20 as the Demons reached the state quarterfinals. He played half of the 2018-19 season before dislocating his kneecap during a game, which ended his sophomore season — a year Santa Fe High reached the big-school state final for the first time in 41 years.
As the Demons began last season, White verbally committed to sign a scholarship to play at UNM, ending a recruiting process that attracted a variety of Power Five programs, including Oregon State, Utah, Colorado, Minnesota, Texas Tech and Texas Christian visited Santa Fe to meet White last year.
White’s decision to sign at UNM was seen as a big boost to the Lobos, who rarely find 6-8 players with room to grow so close to home. Many in Santa Fe thought he could be the best area player in a UNM uniform since the late Toby Roybal played for New Mexico in the 1950s.
But White, who said at the time the Lobos were the first to offer him a scholarship before other schools began to take notice, also seemed to think UNM would be the right fit — it was close to home, where he lived with his grandmother and mother.
Christian Kavanaugh, a 2019 Santa Fe High graduate who played with White on the state runner-up team, said White’s death was an unbelievable end to a story that could have been so good.
“I was telling myself this is crazy,” Kavanaugh said. “This guy has the brightest future and nothing can get in his way. It was horrible because he had so much potential and the biggest future ahead of him. He was so young and he was going to make his way out of here. He was going to do big things.”
White was classified as a Top 100 player in the nation by the website Rivals.com earlier this year, although it was for the class of 2021 at the time.
“Our entire community is shocked and saddened by the loss of someone whom we celebrated during his memorable time on the court and whose talent was a joy to sports fans across New Mexico. We are deeply shaken,” Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García said in a statement. “We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and all who loved him. It is unspeakable to lose someone so young and with such promise for the future.”
White is the fourth area high school student or recent graduate to be killed in recent months.
On July 15, 17-year-old Ivan Armando Perez Chumacero, a rising senior at Capital High School, was shot and killed during a fight outside a south-side apartment complex, witnesses told The New Mexican.
On July 6 in San Miguel County, 16-year-old Adelina Tafoya, a Las Vegas Robertson High School student, was shot and killed when two men mistook her car for that of somebody who had robbed a friend, according to court records.
On June 5, Aiko Perez, a recent graduate of the Academy at Larragoite in Santa Fe, was fatally stabbed by a friend who told police he was under the influence of LSD, according to court records.
It seemed almost unthinkable that White could be on a list of tragedy. Born in Dallas in 2002, he lived in Texas for a few years and said in an interview last fall he was intrigued by football as much as basketball.
“I was for sure gonna make it to the NFL,” White said. “I wanted to play football, and I love playing football. In Texas, that was everybody’s main sport. You’d go outside, and everybody was tackling each other in the street.”
But as he grew taller and his lithe frame found a home on the court, it was clear basketball was his game. It was through the sport that he was emerging, and those close to him could see it happening.
“JB just wants you to care about him,” Demons coach Cole said in an interview last fall. “He wants to be loved. He’s pretty much to himself, so he’s not going to do something to make you notice him. But if you show him that you care, he opens up to you.”