The Meadows, across the street from Marcus Smart's boyhood home, was a setting for gang warfare.

LANCASTER, Texas — Marcus Smart exits the silver Ford Mustang, surveys the apartment complex, and shakes his head. In the overcast morning light, with thunderstorms stretched gray across the summer sky, he tries to remember the last time he returned to this Dallas suburb and retraced his childhood steps. But he cannot remember. It has been that long.

“This is a place,” says the 20-year-old Celtics rookie guard and top draft choice, “that you don’t want to come back to.”

. . .

Eight years ago, Marcus prayed: “Just please get me out of this.”

He prayed as he sprinted through the complex’s parking lot while a Bloods gang member gave chase, pulled a gun, and started firing.

He prayed as he zig-zagged between cars while seven bullets whizzed by. He prayed as he ran harder and faster than he ever will, knowing that this could be it.

“I promise,” he prayed, “I’ll do better.”

Today, Marcus calls that moment the lowest point in a life racked by tragedy, with so many family members and friends dying from everything but old age — a toll so steep it does not seem real.

One relative dropped a loaded shotgun during a children’s game of cowboys and Indians in this town many years ago. It discharged straight into the heart of another relative, who was 5.

Another relative was found shot to death one morning in a front yard in Tyler, Texas. He was 16.

Kim Leeson/Boston Globe

The Meadows, across the street from Marcus Smart’s boyhood home, was a setting for gang warfare.

A train struck one of Marcus’s ex-Amateur Athletic Union teammates four years ago in rural Oklahoma. He was 17.

Then there was Todd Westbrook, Marcus’s oldest half-brother, who died at 33 from cancer.

The deaths came in rapid order.

“Oh, God,” says Marcus’s mother, Camellia, as she fights back tears. …read more