A promising high school basketball player for a New York state championship team collapsed and died Thursday following an Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournament game at Loyola Marymount.
Miguel Respress, 17, was pronounced dead after being taken to Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Playa del Rey. The cause of death is not known and a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner's office said an autopsy had not been ordered as of Friday.
Respress, a 6-7, 200-pound forward who attended Niagara Falls High, had finished playing in a game for a Buffalo-based AAU team filled with members of the high school team that won the New York State Class AA Federation championship -- the state's largest classification -- earlier this year.
Phil Bryant, who is director of the Double Pump Best in the Summer tournament, said Respress went outside the gymnasium and was sitting down on a bench where he collapsed and lost consciousness.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday August 01, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Player death -- In a Sports article Saturday about the death of high school basketball player Miguel Respress, it was reported that the name of the coach of the Buffalo-based AAU team on which Respress played is Greg Bishop. The coach's name is Jeff Bishop.
"I was inside the gym when I got word that a player had a seizure outside," Bryant said. "By the time I got to the front, the crowd of people were blocking all the doors. I was able to work my way through and then I saw a lady and a young man administering what looked like CPR. Our trainer was there, too.
"I just remember seeing the look on his teammates' faces."
Bryant said that Double Pump, Inc., a company run by basketball entrepreneurs Dana and David Pump, hired trainers to be at each of the three sites -- Loyola's Gersten Pavilion, Cal State Dominguez Hills and Los Angeles Westchester High -- for the five-day, 150-team tournament that was to run through Sunday.
Bryant said trainer Alonzo Green was at a station "25 or 30 feet away" from where Respress was sitting and was there immediately after the player collapsed. A Los Angeles County Fire Dept. spokesman said the teen-ager was in "very critical condition" and that he may have been in full cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived a few minutes after a 911 call was made at 2:50 p.m.
The AAU team, nicknamed GC Ballers, returned home Friday afternoon. The rest of the tournament was canceled after officials learned Respress had died, Bryant said.
"As a parent, I can't imagine losing one of my kids, especially after they were doing something they loved," Bryant said.
The news hit hard back in New York. "He was a wonderful young man with a great future," Niagara Falls basketball Coach Dan Bazzani told the Niagara Gazette. "It's just a tragedy."
Tyrell Douglass, a family friend, said he spoke to Respress Thursday morning and had no sense that anything was out of the ordinary.
"Everybody [in the family] is hurt and in complete shock. We can't believe it," Douglass said. "I talked to him the day that he died. He didn't say nothing was wrong with him.
"I love him and I'm going to miss him."
Said Greg Gamble, a former teammate and an incoming freshman at the University of Buffalo: "You couldn't possibly think of something like this to happen. To think of somebody dying after a game like that with no obvious cause ... it's nothing that you can really comprehend."
At Niagara Falls, Respress was a key reserve as the school won its first state title in March by defeating Brooklyn Xaverian. The Wolverines went 28-1 and finished the season as the No. 3-ranked team in the nation by USA Today.
Respress was attracting interest from a number of colleges, Gamble said. Greg Bishop, coach of the AAU team, told the Buffalo News that he received a scholarship offer from St. Francis of the Northeast Conference.
"This year he was looking to explode on the college map," Gamble said. "He really was going to have a chance to shine this year."