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Player Death S Indiana Basketball

OWENSBORO, Ky. — Southern Indiana center Jeron Lewis died late Thursday after collapsing on the court during a game at Kentucky Wesleyan, school officials said.

Lewis, 21, fell under the basket with about 4 minutes left, said athletic department spokesman Ray Simmons. Lewis was rushed to Owensboro Medical Health Center, where he died just before 10 p.m.

“The play was under the basket. The ball was rebounded, we were on defense, and the next thing I knew – most everyone knew – all of a sudden the officials start blowing whistles, and Jeron was motionless with the trainer from Kentucky Wesleyan,” Simmons told The Associated Press. “They started giving him treatment, took him to the medical center. That is where he passed away.”

Simmons said he had no details about what may have caused his death, and the school scheduled a press conference for Friday afternoon.

Messages were left early Friday seeking comment from the Kentucky Medical Examiner and Daviess County coroner.

The 6-foot-8, 260-pound Lewis was in his second season with Division II Southern Indiana, averaging 12.8 points and 8.0 rebounds. The Eagles won Thursday night’s game, 74-69.

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Simmons said Lewis had a “great sense of humor and a soft touch with kids.”

Lewis, from Fort Wayne, Ind., where he led the state in rebounding as a high school senior, is survived by his infant son, fiancee, mother and sister.

“The university community is heartbroken with the passing of this outstanding young man,” university president Linda Bennett said in a statement late Thursday. “Jeron was an excellent example of a student athlete who strove to be the best that he could be. He will be truly missed, not only by his teammates, but by the university community. Our prayers are with Jeron’s family in their time of need.”

Lewis’ death was reminiscent of the passing of former Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers, who collapsed on the court during a West Coast Conference tournament game on March 4, 1990, and was pronounced dead about 1 1/2 hours later.

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