Slain ex-KSU basketball star avoided trouble, friends say

When Shuan Stegall spotted drama, his former coach and principal said, "he went the other way."

Saturday night, trouble found the former Kennesaw State basketball star when he was shot dead by two intruders at his father's Decatur residence. DeKalb County police say the 25-year-old intervened in a fight between the unidentified gunmen and Gerald Stegall Sr., 57.

Earlier that day, Shuan Stegall received a letter from the U.S. Army telling the recently enlisted private when and where to report for duty.

"We get into education to help kids become the kind of person [Shuan] was," said Redan High principal Greg Goodwin, who coached Stegall at Miller Grove Middle School. "Our strategy was to give Shuan the ball and tell everyone else to get out of the way."

The news of Stegall's death has hit friends and family hard, especially since his killing was, according to police, "drug-related."

"Drugs and drug-related paraphernalia" were found inside the elder Stegall's home, said DeKalb police spokesman Jason Gagnon, but investigators aren't saying who the narcotics belonged to. Gerald Stegall, pistol whipped by the suspects, has not been charged with any crime.

Gagnon said police are searching for two heavy-set men last seen wearing tank tops and driving a Dodge Dakota.

"Shuan had nothing to do with drugs," said his pastor, Covenant Ministries Bishop Quincy Carswell Sr., whose son was a childhood friend of Stegall. "I can tell you better than any law enforcement person that Shuan was not involved in that."

Carswell, acting as a spokesman for the family, said Stegall was visiting his father for the weekend. He was living with his mother temporarily before joining the Army. Tamika Stegall declined requests to be interviewed.

"[Shuan] was trying to protect his father," Carswell told the AJC. "He just got in the way of a bullet."

Stegall was one of only 11 players in Kennesaw State's history to surpass 1,000 points and twice led the Owls in rebounds. After graduating in 2008, he played professionally in Britain and Syria.

"[He] was a model professional in his time with us, never had a bad word to say about anyone and just came across as a really nice guy who was a real fan favorite," said Peter Hawkins, owner of the British Basketball League's Cheshire Jets. He  signed Stegall to his first professional contract.

Though basketball had been his passion since grade school, Stegall decided to forgo his nascent hoops career to join the military in hopes of furthering his education.

"He planned to go back to school eventually through the G.I. Bill," said Carswell, who spent much of Wednesday working on the program for Stegall's funeral Saturday afternoon. "We expect over 1,000 people to attend."

Carswell's son, Quincy Carswell II, likely will deliver the eulogy.

"He was always focused on his future," said Carswell, friends with Stegall since middle school. "He shied away from any negativity. We called him the ‘gentle giant' because that's exactly what he was. "

Asked about the circumstances of his friend's death, Carswell was resolute. "If drugs were involved, he had nothing to do with it," he told the AJC. "He wasn't about that. It's just another senseless killing. I'm telling you, man, we've had too many of those. Way too many."