A group of just over 100 gathered Wednesday night at Danny Jones Middle School to remember 17-year-old John Lee, who died Tuesday while attending a basketball camp in Reading, Pa.
Lee was entering his senior year at South Grand Prairie High School, played AAU basketball and had aspirations of attending an Ivy League college, according to coaches and friends in attendance.
“John was the kind of kid that coaches hope and pray they get to coach,” said South Grand Prairie basketball coach Brandon Bennett. “Positive attitude. Great teammate. Always gave his best effort, and that was contagious when he was around other kids. He will be sorely missed.”
Lee was not identified by name by authorities in Berks County, Pa., but a report from the Reading Eagle stated that a 17-year-old from Texas died Tuesday after collapsing on a basketball court at Albright College, citing the coroner’s office there. According to that report, a ruling on the death is still pending.
Thomas Durso, an Albright spokesman, told the Reading Eagle that efforts were made to revive Lee after he collapsed, but Lee remained unresponsive. He was pronounced dead Tuesday night by a staff physician at Reading Hospital. Bennett said he did not know of any preexisting medical conditions from which Lee may have suffered.
Lee played guard on South Grand Prairie’s varsity team last year as a junior, but those who knew him best said he was even more impressive in the classroom.
“All his teachers loved him. It’s an unbelievable loss,” said Donte Wilson, basketball coach at Mansfield Lake Ridge, where Lee played his freshman year before transferring to South Grand Prairie. “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.”
Lee’s immediate family did not attend the vigil. Friends said they were traveling to Pennsylvania.
Alix Lanzafame, a friend who met Lee when both attended Danny Jones Middle School four years ago, broke into tears as Jeff Young, another family friend, led the group in prayer.
“Anybody that he met, he liked,” Lanzafame said. “And anybody that he liked, he loved. He was my favorite person in the world, and I will never forget him.”
Lanzafame was one of several at the gathering who called Lee “my best friend.” Nate Martinez, one of the organizers of the vigil, was another.
“I admired how seriously he took school,” Martinez said. “He set Ivy League goals for himself, and he was going to do whatever it took to make that happen. I’m still in shock. All I can believe right now is that God took John for a reason, and he has a bigger and better plan for him.”