Lakeside athlete dies at Family Y

Center on school basketball team collapses on court
Vergil King: Senior was 11 days short of his 18th birthday. An autopsy is to be performed in Atlanta today.

A Lakeside High School athlete collapsed and died Monday afternoon after a basketball game with friends.

Columbia County schools were closed for the Columbus Day holiday, so Lakeside High senior Vergil King used the time away from classes to hone his basketball game at the Wilson Branch of The Family Y on Wheeler Road.

"Mr. King ... walked off the court when he lay down on the floor at the end of the court and grabbed his chest," Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten said in an e-mail.

King, who was just 11 days shy of his 18th birthday, was taken to Doctors Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:40 p.m., Tuten said.

Danny McConnell, the president and chief executive officer of The Family Y, doesn't believe King made it out of the gym alive.

"We're fairly confident that when he left the branch here that (EMTs) were having a hard time getting a pulse or any breathing from him," McConnell said.

Several Family Y staff with medical training rushed to help King, but McConnell said nothing could be done.

"He had a lot of assistance pretty quick," he said. "It just happened pretty quick."

Lakeside Athletic Director Donnie Burch called King a "naturally gifted basketball player."

"This is a shock to everybody," said Burch, who coached King on the school's junior varsity squad. "He was in good shape. ... Those things aren't supposed to happen."

Burch said that King, a starting center for the Panthers, had not decided on plans to play basketball in college but that he was good enough.

"He had all the tools to go play in college," he said.

When classes at Lakeside resume today, school psychologists and counselors will be on hand in the media center for students who need them, said Burch, who is a school counselor.

"The big thing with Vergil is he was well-liked by the student body," Burch said. "He had a lot of friends."

Counseling for King's family and staff at The Family Y also will be available, McConnell said.

"Anytime something like this happens, it is an emotional time for everyone involved," he said. "We're in the middle of that and trying to show support for the family, who obviously is hurting."

King is the second Lakeside High athlete to die this year. Football player Nicholas Deshawn Hartfield, 17, drowned in August while swimming with friends in the Savannah River.

Tuten said an autopsy will be performed today at the state crime lab in Atlanta to determine the cause of death.

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