Coach Remembers Star Player Who Collapsed from Heart Condition - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Coach Remembers Star Player Who Collapsed from Heart Condition

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    NEWSLETTERS

    News of John Lee's sudden death came as a shock to those who knew him best. The 17-year-old basketball player would have been a senior at South Grand Prairie High School this fall. (Published Thursday, July 27, 2017)

    News of John Lee's sudden death came as a shock to those who knew him best. The 17-year-old basketball player would have been a senior at South Grand Prairie High School this fall.

    “Broke my heart. I went to his house and I was just ringing the doorbell," said his best friend Alix Lanzafame.

    Lee collapsed at basketball camp Tuesday from cardiomyopathy - it was undiagnosed, according to his mother.

    “He was a big healthy strong kid that worked very hard so we never thought anything like this would happen,” said SGP Head Boys Basketball Coach Brandon Bennett.

    “When he'd get tired, he'd put his hand on his head and cross his legs and so I would always give him a hard time about get your hands off your head, don't cross your legs,” Bennett said.

    The upcoming year would have marked Bennett’s third coaching Lee, who played varsity last year. He loved him like a son.

    “We spend a lot of time with our kids. We spend more time I think than they do with their own parents,” he said.

    It wasn’t just his athleticism that made him special.

    “John excelled in the classroom first and then on the basketball court,” Bennett said. “He worked hard, never complained.”

    Lee dreamed of playing at an Ivy League school.

    Former teammate, Nate Martinez, organized a vigil Wednesday, but he plans to do more.

    “Just going on and playing basketball now, it's like I had a reason to do it, but now it's even more of a reason for why I'm playing,” said Martinez, a soon-to-be senior at Lake Ridge High School.

    Lee's close friends met Thursday to share memories.

    “John had this nickname for me: 'mom.' Whenever he wasn't at home with his own mom, and he took it literally so every time he needed something he called me, mom what are you doing?” said Lanzafame.

    She was on the phone with him the night before he left for camp.

    “He's in God's hands but he's in my heart forever and everyone I meet from now on will know who he is and what he means to me,” Lanzafame said.

    Coach Bennett echoes that sentiment.

    “We won't forget John. He'll be with us every day that we step into a gym and every day that we go into a classroom and walk the hallways he's gonna be with us,” he said.

    A lot of the South Grand Prairie players are at a tournament in Las Vegas right now. They've been putting his #10 on their shoes and jerseys and chanting his name to pay tribute.

    A GoFundMe was set up by family and friends to help with funeral expenses. The original goal was $10,000, but it well surpassed that in under a day.

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