Straight Up! AKRON legend man! Always looked out for me when I was a youngin walking the streets looking for a place to hoop. May You Rest in Paradise Jerry Row! https://t.co/z6pprWXqhS

— LeBron James (@KingJames)April 16, 2019

Akron youth sports legend Jerry Rowland, an early mentor of LeBron James, has died at the age of 69.

Rowland, who ran the Ed Davis Community Center and coached there for 40 years, was a three-time City Series scoring champion at Buchtel High School in the 1960s.

James confirmed Rowland's death in a tweet Thursday.

"Straight Up! AKRON legend man! Always looked out for me when I was a youngin walking the streets looking for a place to hoop. May You Rest in Paradise Jerry Row!"

Rowland knew James as a kid and once hired him for $4.75 an hour to work at the community center as a camp counselor, coaching children while he was still in high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary. James had also played at the community center as a youngster.

Rowland, who was also a contractor with Cardinal Environment, was inducted as a player into the Buchtel High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

“It hurt my heart to learn we lost not only one of the most impactful athletes to come through the Buchtel basketball program but in fact a staple to the west Akron community,” Buchtel boys basketball coach Matt Futch said. “Jerry Rowland was an inspiration and leader. He has taught us so many lessons growing up. God bless his family during this time.”

Futch said Rowland was helpful to him as a young kid, as a Buchtel boys basketball player, and even after he was done playing on the University of Akron men’s basketball team.

“The gym doors were always open as a kid and teenager,” Futch said. “I even had a pro workout post college with Nene Hilario [who now plays in the NBA with the Houston Rockets].

“That is what motivates me to fight the challenges I face to keep the doors open to the gym for kids in the community.”

St. Vincent-St. Mary boys basketball coach Dru Joyce II credited Rowland for getting him into coaching.

“I'm coaching right now because of Jerry Rowland,” Joyce II said. “When my son Dru was 7 years old, I took him to Ed Davis to play in the Rec League. We had been turned down at the Forest Lodge Rec Center because Dru was only 7 and the league started at 8.

“Jerry said he would let Dru play under one condition — that I would coach the team. Coaching was a dream of mine but it may never have happened without Jerry Rowland giving me that opportunity. The teams were already chosen and he asked each coach to give me a player so you know the players we [Dru and I] got. I went 1-7 that year, my first in coaching. All the success I've had coaching started with Jerry Rowland awakening in me a dream that was lost.”

North football coach Sonil Haslam also praised Rowland for the contribution he made to his life.

“I was a young kid who had attended summer camp at Ed Davis when I first met Jerry, and he was great," Haslam said. "He knew all the kids' names. … Jerry made sure all kids felt safe and welcome at Ed Davis. He modeled positive male behavior that I still use today with players and young people I deal with on a day-to-day basis.”

We are heartbroken by the loss of an Akron legend, community leader & youth mentor. Jerry Rowland has passed away after 44 years of service w/ the City. He was a true advocate for youth sports and we'll miss his energy & encouragement. Ed Davis Community Center won't be the same.pic.twitter.com/VMLeiLnIOv

— City of Akron, Ohio (@AkronOhioMayor)April 18, 2019

The city of Akron also sent out a tweet after Rowland's death.

"We are heartbroken by the loss of an Akron legend, community leader & youth mentor. Jerry Rowland has passed away after 44 years of service w/ the City. He was a true advocate for youth sports and we'll miss his energy & encouragement. Ed Davis Community Center won't be the same."

Rowland was inducted into the King of the Court Hall of Fame in 1998 along with Curtis Wilson, Gus Johnson, Jimmy Gooden and James Johnston.

"I watched Curtis Wilson, Jimmy Gooden and James Johnston grow up as players," Rowland said at the time. "And Gus watched me do the same thing. And the best thing about this group is that every one of us graduated from college.

"Too many kids today try to make basketball their life. They don't understand that basketball is the vehicle that can help them go to college and make a life for themselves."