It was an amazing basketball game that would have been remembered anyway.
The end of a game, the end of a perfect season and the last minute of play; the star player makes the final shot and gets his team to the district playoffs. The crowd goes wild and he’s lifted off the floor in celebration.
One minute later, he’s on the gym floor dying of an enlarged heart.
Wes Leonard, a 16-year-old basketball player considered “the quintessential all-American-kid,” was known as a talent both in his high school and in others throughout Michigan. In fact, opposing coaches had been known to ask for his birth certificate because they couldn’t believe such a young kid could play such good basketball with so much skill.
His final shot gave Fennville High School a 57-55 victory over Bridgman High for a perfect 20-0 regular season. Less than a minute later, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound star collapsed in front of 1,400 stunned fans.
“Thirty seconds earlier, he was laying in the winning bucket,” said Ryan Klingler, basketball coach in Fennville. “And then 10 seconds later … everything’s pulled out from under you, from out of nowhere.”
Leonard was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. The autopsy later showed that he had died of cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart.
“It shouldn’t have been like this,” said teammate Adam Siegel. “Too young.”
“Beyond his outstanding athletic abilities, Wes was a better person,” said Fennville Superintendent Dirk Weeldreyer. “His fellow students liked and respected him. Their grief speaks volumes about the high regard in which Wes was held.”Tags: Basketball Player, dies, Wes Leonard, winning shot