Aspiring filmmaker, mentor dies at 20

Cindy Von Quednow

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Diron Rivers had two passions in life: basketball and film. The 20-year-old CTVA major who passed away on Feb. 3, wanted to be an NBA player, like his idol Ray Allen, for most of his childhood, but came to CSUN to pursue a career as a director or producer.

For most of his young life he played with the jersey number 21, although he never lived to be that age; his 21st birthday was coming up, on April 21.

Even in death, his friends and family admire his positive attitude and ambitious aspirations.

‘The sky was the limit for Diron,’ said Rivers’ mother, Shantrece, 38.’ ‘He always focused and didn’t let anyone deter him from that. I saw him working for a major film company somewhere, I knew my son was going to be successful.’

Others in Rivers’ life saw his dedication and hard work.

‘(Diron) did nothing but play basketball and worry about school,’ said Lee A. Davis Jr., 27, Rivers’ older cousin. Lee, who is the athletic director at Toberman Neighborhood Center in San Pedro, said he remembered playing with his little cousin in his backyard.

Despite their difference in age and size, Rivers never retaliated, he said, in fact Rivers sought help from Lee.

‘He would come to me when he wanted to work on his hops. We’d work out together, work on those skinny legs of his,’ remembered Lee.

Although he was a ‘late bloomer’ in basketball, as Lee put it, Rivers grew to be more than six feet tall, the perfect height for his favorite sport.

‘He just had that basketball look, he fit that profile of a basketball player,’ said Mercedes Burke, 32, Rivers’ aunt.’ ‘It was really what he was about.’

Despite being diagnosed with a heart murmur at 16, Rivers kept shooting hoops. In fact, it was the last thing he did before he passed away. Rivers collapsed in Redwood Hall after a game, lost consciousness and could not be revived. According to the family, doctors said heart failure was the cause of death, but the coroner’s office is waiting on toxicology results to confirm the cause of death.

For Jules Davis, Rivers’ younger cousin, Rivers’ death is ironic, and ‘scary.”

‘Who would have thought that playing basketball would take him out of here?’ asked Jules.’ ‘He was the type of basketball player who took it the whole way.’

Rivers took his passion for basketball beyond the game to his neighborhood park, Westchester Recreation Center in Inglewood, were he worked as a referee and coach. The park will name a tournament and scholarship after Rivers, said his father, Diron Rivers, Sr.

‘He was like a big brother to all the kids,’ said Chris Sanford, River’s long-time friend and co-worker.’ ‘They looked up to him and loved to watch him play.’

Rivers served as a mentor to his own brothers, Dej-on, 18 and Deon, three.

‘It was a unique brotherhood,’ said Shantrece, about the relationship among her sons.’ ‘It was a brotherly friendship they shared; (Diron) was the perfect example of a son and role model.’

Rivers was an ideal child for both his parents.’

‘He impacted everyone around him,’ said Diron Sr., a performer who was part of Tupac Shakur’s group, Thug Life.’ ‘I’m still proud to say he was my son. He made it easy to raise him’hellip; the best 20 years of my life were with this boy. He brought sunshine and joy to this house.’

Although Rivers’ didn’t see his 21st birthday, his father recently took him out to his first 21-and-over club where he performed. ‘We got into the VIP area and danced the whole night,’ said Diron Sr., 40. ‘We had a good time that night.” ‘

Being the oldest son, Rivers was the first among his brothers to go to college, something that brought great pride to the family, said Burke.

‘His high school graduation was a marker for our family,’ she commented. ‘We knew it was the beginning of something great for him.’

In school, many people, like, Kristen Van Kallen, saw Rivers as a funny and entertaining person.

‘He was really funny, whenever he’d be around, you’d always be smiling,’ said the freshman communication disorders major, who knew Burke for about a year. ‘He always made you laugh and made your day better.’

Rivers’ love for film started at an early age, said Shantrece, when the family would go to the movies almost every weekend.

Burke said that it was Rivers’ funny nature that drew him to film, once he realized that a career in the NBA wasn’t too plausible.’

‘He looked at what he was good at, and that was making people laugh; he was always animated and could imitate people really well,’ she said. ‘Film was the best way to capture that.’

Sometimes Rivers branched out into different genre, including horror.’ He made one comedy/slasher film titled, ‘A Day in Inglewood,’ in which he cast himself as the killer, said Burke.’

‘It was cute how he put it together,’ described Burke who recently revisited her nephew’s films. ‘It was a spur of the moment movie, but it turned out really good.’

Rivers went from quoting his favorite movies to coming up with ideas of his own.
It was a passion he shared with a fellow CTVA major and Westchester Park co-worker, Adam Ramirez.

‘He would always talk about movies, he had a great knowledge of film,’ said the sophomore of Rivers.’ ‘He had really good ideas and he was really creative. We were looking forward to working together in the future.’

Ramirez and Sanford, Rivers’ childhood friend and journalism major, are among several CSUN students raising funds for their friend’s funeral. A fundraiser will be held tomorrow night by the Westchester high school alumni class of 2006 at the Shakey’s Pizza in Inglewood from 6 to 9 p.m. at 935 W. Arbor Vitae St. Inglewood, CA 90301.