As the Goose Creek boys basketball team huddled around coach Blake Hall during a game last week, each Gators player wore something special on his uniform.
On each pair of shorts, threaded in Gator gold, was the familiar symbol — a palmetto tree with nine doves descending heavenward — that instantly evokes one of the most tragic chapters in Charleston history: Emanuel AME.
Hall and Goose Creek High School have a direct connection to the events of June 17, 2015, when nine churchgoers were murdered at Emanuel AME in Charleston. Hall worked with, and coached the son of, one of the victims, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.
So with Goose Creek due for new uniforms this season, Hall had an inspiration — to honor Emanuel AME with the familiar symbol, based on a design by Charleston graphic designer Gil Shuler.
It's a constant reminder, Hall said, of what was lost and what was learned at Emanuel AME.
"I thought it was a neat way to honor Sharonda and the other victims at Emanuel AME," said Hall, who has been at Goose Creek five years and coached Chris Singleton, Sharonda's son. "And it also shows how proud we are of the Charleston community, and of Chris, in how we handled that situation when other parts of the country might have handled it differently."
Chris Singleton, then a freshman baseball player at Charleston Southern, inspired people around the world with his "love is stronger than hate" message the day after the shooting. He carries that message with him still as a player in the Chicago Cubs' minor league baseball system.
His mother, Sharonda, was a speech therapist and girls track coach at Goose Creek.
"I try to teach a lot of our younger players about the lessons we learned there," Hall said. "Some of them remember Chris, because they were in middle school at the time, and we've had him come in to speak to them.
"It's a great teaching point for some of our younger kids, on how to lead and how to handle adversity. It's a great lesson for all of us that we can all learn from."
Hall had the symbol embossed on the court at Goose Creek last season. This year, the home uniforms feature the symbol on the leg of the shorts, while the Gators' road uniforms have the symbol at the waist.
"When we forget things that happened in the past, we tend to repeat those," Hall said. "We don't ever want to forget, although we can forgive. I'll always talk to our players about this as long as I'm at Goose Creek."