Teen Hoops Player Wes Leonard Turns Team's Victory Into Heartbreak

basketballThere is some very sad news coming from western Michigan this morning. Wes Leonard, a 16-year-old basketball player for Fennville High School, collapsed on the court after making the winning lay-up to secure his team's undefeated season. Paramedics performed CPR on Leonard before he was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In overtime, Leonard scored the game-winning basket with only seconds left to cinch a 57-55 victory for his 20-0 team. The celebration quickly turned to a scene of panic and worry when Leonard suddenly dropped to the floor.

The strange part is this isn't the first time a student-athlete at Fennville has suddenly died after competition.


Just 14 months ago, in January 2010, 14-year-old wrestler Nathaniel Hernandez suffered a seizure after a match and died at home that night.

While there is absolutely no evidence linking the deaths, it is very bizarre and extraordinarily sad that two young boys from the same high school, two athletes, died so abruptly. Hernandez had a seizure but there is no cause of death yet announced for Leonard.

I learned about SADS, Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, aka Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, after a teenage girl died unexpectedly after experiencing her first kiss. She kissed her boyfriend on the stoop, went inside, lay down on the couch, and died. Perhaps we'll find that Leonard's life was taken by this same rare heart condition.

Just this week, two days before Leonard's death, varsity basketball coach Ryan Klingler gave an interview to the Sentinel in which he described Leonard's impressive skill and drive.

That's what makes him a little different. He takes care of his body better than probably anybody I've ever coached. Spends a lot of time on his own in the weight room. He's a special kid.

It is a beyond tragic story and my heart breaks for Leonard's family, friends, classmates, and teammates. Leonard was also the high school quarterback, and led the football team to the second round in the state playoffs. The basketball team is scheduled to start on their road to the state championship with the district playoffs on Monday. May Wes Leonard rest in peace.


Photo via Andersedin/Flickr

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