CBKB: Coroner: Ind player who died had enlarged heart
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Preliminary results from an autopsy Friday show that Southern Indiana center Jeron Lewis may have died from a heart condition after collapsing during a game at Kentucky Wesleyan.
Daviess County, Ky., Coroner Bob Howe said the autopsy found no signs of head or any other trauma to the 21-year-old Lewis, who died at an Owensboro, Ky., hospital late Thursday. Fans said they saw Lewis hit his head when he collapsed under the basket with about 4 minutes left in the game.
“He didn’t even bruise his head,” Howe said. “It looks like it’s going to be a heart-related death.”
Howe said the autopsy showed Lewis had an enlarged heart, but further testing remained to be done that would likely take about two weeks.
Southern Indiana assistant sports information director Dan McDonnell said he was not aware that Lewis had a heart condition, and Howe said Lewis himself likely didn’t know it.
McDonnell said the Evansville campus of about 10,000 students was in shock and a Facebook page set up in honor of Lewis had more than 2,000 members by noon Friday.
“It hasn’t sunk in,” said Abby Williams, a 21-year-old senior on the women’s basketball team who recalled talking with Lewis in classes. “It’s not real to any of us. It’s a terrible, tragic incident to happen and none of us can quite grip it.”
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 in 13 games. Lewis was from Fort Wayne, where he led the state in rebounding as a high school senior.
Lewis missed two games in December for the birth of his son. Williams said Lewis had been thrilled to become a father and was looking forward to raising the boy. He is also survived by his fiancee, mother and sister.
Mike Novell, who coached Lewis at Fort Wayne North, said the high school of 1,600 students was “ravaged” by his death.
“What a great young man,” Novell said. “Kind, gentle, compassionate, loving — you hardly ever saw Jeron without a smile on his face.”
He said Lewis used to make six transfers on city buses from his home to get to school, but never used hardship as an excuse.
Lewis’s college was likewise shaken by his loss. Southern Indiana postponed a men’s and women’s doubleheader against Quincy that had been set for Saturday.
“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.”
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› hours later.
Southern Indiana won Thursday night’s game, 74-69.