Texas Tech guard Brandone Francis will be playing with a heavy heart when he takes the court for a Final Four matchup against the Michigan State on Saturday. Francis, a Dominican Republic native, is mourning the death of his friend, rapper Nipsey Hussle. Hussle was shot and killed earlier this week in Los Angeles.
According to ESPN's Jeff Borzello, Francis met Hussle when he first arrived to the United States. His father worked with Hussle as a brand ambassador in the music industry for ten years.
"Nips took me in like a little brother," Francis told ESPN. "We always FaceTime, I follow him on social media, we catch up. On my birthday, he gave me a beautiful message, sent me a beautiful video, wishing me happy birthday. I will never forget that."
Hussle, born Ermias Davidson Asghedom, was shot several times outside of Marathon Clothing, a store he owned in Hyde Park, and was pronounced dead not long afterward. Two other people were injured in the shooting.
Hussle was a community organizer involved with the Destination Crenshaw arts project, an open-air museum devoted to honoring African-American artistic achievement. His debut studio album, "Victory Lap," was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards.
Hussle attended Texas Tech's Elite Eight win over Gonzaga and was going to attend the Final Four to watch Francis play.
"[I was saying], 'Nip is coming, man. He is gonna come and see me,'" Francis said. "I'm a grown man over here, excited about another man coming to see me play. But that's when you knew how much impact he had in my life... For him to see me do that at that stage, that's big, man. That's something I will tell my kids someday.
"I'm still in shock, man. It hasn't left my mind," Francis added. "But at the same time, I have to get ready to perform for my team. He's in my mind 24-7. It's going to take me a very, very long for me to get over it. It was tough, man. You're making it to the Final Four. ... It's like a bittersweet moment. Happy that we're going to the Final Four, but at the same time, you lost one of your favorite peoples in the world."
Francis said he might write Hussle's name on his shoes or wear a T-shirt in his memory ahead of the game.