Coach Remembers Star Player Who Collapsed from Heart Condition

By Vanessa Brown

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.

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.

Original Story:

The sudden cardiac death of teen basketball player John Lee from cardiomyopathy is yet another stark reminder that undiagnosed heart conditions are a real threat to young athletes across the country.

John’s basketball coach Brandon Bennett stated he was a “big healthy strong kid” and that he didn’t know of any preexisting medical conditions. This is exactly why preventative heart testing must be done on student athletes, starting in high school. The majority of young athletes with cardiac conditions do not experience any recognizable symptoms of a heart issue. Oftentimes the first sign something is wrong with a player’s heart is sudden cardiac arrest itself—or, as in Lee’s case, sudden cardiac death.

John Lee was going to be a senior in high school. He had aspirations of attending an Ivy League college. His coach said about him, “John was the kind of kid that coaches hope and pray they get to coach.

John Lee is that example for those who come after him, of how to do it right. There was so much more to him than athletics. You just knew he was going to do something special with his life, and now we’re not going to be able to see what that was,” said John’s former basketball coach Donte Wilson.

John’s friends talked about what a great person he was. “Anybody that he met, he liked. And anybody that he liked, he loved.

The loss of John is felt by many. But his tragedy didn’t have to happen.

Cardiac tests can detect heart conditions such as cardiomyopathy, early, so measures can be taken to keep a student safe.

Don’t take a chance with your students’ lives. Take the next step to protect them – sign up your school for testing.

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