It was an embrace years in the making.
As Colorado School of Mines last-ditch 3 came up with nothing but air, and the horn sounded to signal Fort Lewis Colleges third Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout title, the late-bloomer and the sharpshooter both Albuquerque bred found each other on the basketball court like theyd been doing for years, only this time in celebration.
Finally, at the collegiate level, David Kanyinda and DeAndre Lansdowne, the closest of friends, had a title to share.
The early years
The friendships inception carries an interesting backstory.
Kanyindas story began in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he was born to parents J.M. and Nora Kanyinda. As a child, the Kanyindas moved to New York City before matriculating to Albuquerque 12 years ago.
Lansdownes youth wasnt filled with the globetrotting of Kanyindas, but it nonetheless contained upheaval of a different kind. With his birth mother incarcerated and birth father out of the picture, Lansdowne was adopted by John and Betty Lansdowne on his sixth birthday, while his birth siblings Josh, DeSean and Shante Payne were adopted by another Albuquerque family.
Fortunately, Lansdowne said, his siblings adoptive family lived nearby, and the four remain close.
We moved into town near each other and kept our families closer, he said.
As Lansdowne grew through middle school, he eventually developed a relationship with Kanyinda to the point where the pair became inseparable, leading Kanyinda to refer to his teammate as brother. And as brothers are wont to do, the duo enjoyed some brotherly ribbing directed at Kanyindas younger sister, Jane, herself a basketball standout at Sandia High School.
(Lansdowne) was always the third brother, so we used to just mess with her, and she used to treat him the exact same way as me and Nate, Kanyinda said of his older brother.
Shed get mad at us. She would chase us down, Lansdowne said.
Before joining forces at the high school and college levels, Kanyinda and Lansdowne were on opposing sides more often than not Kanyinda went to Cleveland Middle School in Albuquerque while Lansdowne attended nearby Madison Middle School. But for all their combined skill on the hardwood, in those days, it was all about soccer.
(Kanyinda) would come and score, (then) theyd put him in goal. And we could never score, Lansdowne said. I dont know how, but yeah, it was frustrating.
Once the pair hit Sandia High School, it was time to slide over to the hardwood. Although, to hear their high school coach, Adrian Ortega, tell it, Lansdownes basketball career almost ended before it began.
DeAndre was actually better at soccer, and in his freshman year, he considered quitting (basketball) to play soccer, Ortega said.
Fortunately for Sandia and fortunately Fort Lewis College, Lansdowne stuck with basketball.
But back in the Sandia days, Kanyinda, who graduated a year before Lansdowne, was the big-name star. The 6-1 sharpshooter was a first-team all-state selection and was the New Mexico Player of the Year as a senior in 2006, and he banged around against the likes of NBA players O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker during the Amateur Athletic Union club basketball season in the summer.
David was the high-profile guy in town. Everybody knew who he was, Ortega said.
But for a team expected to advance deep into the postseason, the Matadors met their demise at the hands of a now-familiar foe: FLC teammate and then-Rio Rancho junior Daniel Steffensen. His 17 points helped the Rams knock off the Matadors 79-66 and cut Kanyindas senior year short.
He still talks about it, an incredulous Kanyinda said about Steffensen, last weekends RMAC Shootout most valuable player.
After Kanyinda graduated and opted to walk on at the University of New Mexico, the Matadors turned to Lansdowne, who blossomed into the Albuquerque Metro Player of the Year in 2007 while leading Sandia to the state tournament, where Steffensens Rams again eliminated SHS en route to a state title.
The jokes on you
The two were pranksters in high school, playing tricks on their French teacher and often going tomatoing probably a definition best explained by the duo themselves.
Given their propensity for jokes and laughter to this day, one might easily expect the two still to be world-class pranksters. Ortegas willing to bet thats not the case.
They were probably worse back then, Ortega said. Theyre just great kids, and they have great families. They get a rise out of heckling each other once in awhile.
It was on a quick pit stop from an RMAC road trip in the not-too-distant past when FLC head coach Bob Hofman finally got to see Lansdowne whom hed heard about but never saw play showcase his skills.
Hofman was instantly hooked.
We watched him play for two minutes, and we were hooked, Hofman said.
On the eve of the state tournament for Lansdowne and Sandia in 2007, right before Kanyinda was set to travel with the Lobos for a road game at Wyoming, both received bad news.
I got the text or the call from one of my friends right before I was going to class ... He said, Did you hear what happened? I was like, What? And he said Josh died. And I was like, Josh who? And he said, Josh Bean. I was like, No, theres no way. I had seen him the other day, Kanyinda said.
Bean, a former AAU teammate of both Kanyinda and Lansdownes, was stabbed and killed during an argument over loud music in March of 2007. He was 18.
They had me speak at his funeral. And that open casket ..., Kanyindas sentence falls short.
That was the worst, said Lansdowne said, who finished his friend and teammates thought.
Both Kanyinda and Lansdowne responded with strong games just days after their friends death. But it was the longer-lasting effects of Beans tragic death that had the most impact.
When I heard, it changed my life. ... I wanted to start living for God and start doing things right and stuff, because all that time I was going kind of crazy and wild, Kanyinda said.
And although its been four years since Beans murder, his memory still shines brightly to his friends.
He touched a lot of people ... just by his smile and excitement, no matter what, Lansdowne said. And the potential that he had, and thinking this kids done so much having so little, that I think a lot of people were blessed by that.
Just weeks after losing Bean, Kanyinda lost his scholarship in the shuffle during UNMs coaching switch from Ritchie McKay to Steve Alford in a process Kanyinda described as chaos. Without the ability to pay his own way and with issues surrounding the release of his scholarship, the offensive stalwart took his game to Lamar Community College a destination he soon discovered didnt suit his style.
All 300 students of us, Kanyinda said. That was an experience in and of itself. ... It smells like cow 80 percent of the time. The cowboys werent the nicest people, and the places wed go to play for basketball were just atrocious, man.
After a year at the school, Kanyinda began looking for a new home. Texas State, San Diego and Howard were interested, and Kanyinda vacillated on a decision. During that process, Hofman saw him play a pickup game in Albuquerque and threw FLCs hat in the ring while Lansdowne and then-Skyhawks point guard Tim Crowell worked on convincing the reticent shooter to join the Skyhawks.
He was maybe the most difficult recruit Ive ever had in that he could not make up his mind. ... Basically, I went to watch him play at a rec center in Albuquerque and just saw he had great athleticism and great range on his shot, Hofman said.
Finally, Kanyinda swung to the Skyhawks, reuniting him with his longtime pal, Lansdowne. Only this time, Lansdowne was the burgeoning star one who eventually would top an impressive list of Skyhawks to become the leading scorer in school history with Kanyinda providing two years of aerial support from beyond the arc.
We are the Champions
Two years after teaming up again, the duo helped FLC win the RMAC Shootout crown, which for all but a few players was their first taste of a collegiate title of any kind.
For two best friends, two men with a visible brotherly relationship right down to the hairstyle they share, it was a cleansing one that allowed them to wash away the stains of their past, all that pain and anguish, gone in a flash.
I dont think weve ever won anything that big together. ... Us winning and being the two that ran to each other first and just jumped and hugged each other, its a great feeling, Lansdowne said.
Its the kind of stuff kids dream about when theyre shooting in the yard, Kanyinda said.
For the time being, the passage of time dictates that this is where the story ends for two seniors. But with the NCAA Tournament on the horizon FLC will play the Central Region Tournament this weekend in Mankato, Minn. the saga of Kanyinda and Lansdowne, with all its successes, failures, hijinks, laughs and tears, is far from over.