Just as a small town in Michigan begins to recover from the tragedy of losing a favorite son, a South Texas community is beginning the grieving process after another teen basketball player died during a basketball game on Saturday.
According to the Associated Press, Roma (Texas) High junior Robert Garza collapsed during a game at an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournament Saturday in Austin, falling just after taking a sip of water on the bench during a timeout. The McAllen Monitor reported that paramedics attempted to revive Garza at the scene, but failed to do so. He died approximately an hour after collapsing at Brackenridge Hospital in downtown Austin.
"During pregame warm-ups, he was dunking the ball and laughing with his teammates. Everything looked good," South Texas Hoopsters coach Arnold Martinez told The Monitor. "It's unexplainable. He got a glass of water. He high-fived [teammate] Pablo Adame and then it just happened. He collapsed."
The circumstances surrounding Garza's death are eerily familiar to those who have followed the tragedy that enveloped Fennville, Mich., after its basketball star Wes Leonard died on the court following his team's 20th victory of the season. Both Leonard -- who died of cardiac arrest from an enlarged heart -- and Garza had appeared completely healthy moments before collapsing and were unresponsive to all attempts to revive them.
It remains unknown whether the high school junior had any history of familial heart problems, but none have come to light as of Monday. The cause of death will not be ascertained until an autopsy can be performed on the teen, a process that could not continue until his mother arrived in Austin from the McAllen area, which is nearly six hours away.
"Robert was a great, great human being," Roma coach Abelardo Escobar told The Monitor. "I'm very, very sad. The Lord asked for an angel to come to Him today. He took care of his body. He ate all the right things. I don't know how else to explain it."
"If you had 10 Roberts on any team, you would have taken them," Martinez told The Monitor. "He was just a good kid from Roma. He loved being around his teammates."
Those teammates were perhaps most stunned by the tragedy that unfolded on Saturday. For many, the unenviable task of replacing a close friend and well respected Valley athlete is still a distant thought, far from facing their first days without Garza, who was described as a quiet and unassumingly friendly presence by one longtime teammate.
Garza's high school teammate Carlos Gonzalez, a senior, said they discussed the team's goals for next year during lunch on Thursday. Gonzalez described Garza as quiet but very well liked.
"He was probably the quietest guy I knew," said Gonzalez, who was not at the tournament in Austin. "And he was so smart. He had many friends. He was quiet, but once you got to know him, he was fine. ... He inspired many people, many young guys. I'm going to miss everything about him."
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