TAMPA — A Brandon High School senior died Saturday, one day after conditioning with the basketball team during a pre-season workout.
Milo Meeks, 18, had transferred to Brandon this year after playing basketball for three years at Armwood High School in Seffner.
“This is mind blowing,” said Ben Bromley, the junior varsity and assistant varsity basketball coach at Armwood.
Bromley had known Meeks since the student-athlete was in seventh grade. Bromley also coached Meeks with the Bay Area Hurricanes, Bromley’s Amateur Athletic Union team.
He confirmed Meeks’ death Saturday afternoon but said doctors could not provide answers about what killed Meeks.
“We’re not 100 percent sure, but he collapsed at practice and he was not responsive,” Bromley said. “He was on a ventilator, his heart shut down, his lungs shut down and his fever spiked.”
Bromley said he spent the night at Brandon Regional Hospital with Meeks and his family. Bromley said the hospital waiting room overflowed with Armwood and Brandon players.
Steve Hegarty, spokesman for the Hillsborough County School District, said Brandon High School Principal Carl Green will help students and staff deal with Meeks’ death.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” Hegarty said.
A 6-foot-2-inch, 170-pound forward, Meeks played junior varsity basketball at Armwood his freshman and sophomore years. On the varsity team last season he played in 15 games and scored 34 total points.
“He’s one of those guys who made it look easy,” said Armwood head basketball Coach Jeff PaFunda. “He played big. He had long arms. He had a size 17 shoe. We thought he was going to be 7 feet tall.”
Those huge shoes earned Meeks the nickname “Feet,” said Marcus Hill, Meeks’ former teammate at Armwood and now a freshman at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.
“His life was basically about basketball,” said Hill of Meeks. “He didn’t do social media. He wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter. He didn’t go to parties. He just went to school and played basketball.”
PaFunda said Meeks had asthma symptoms, but passed every physical to play basketball.
Seeing Meeks in the hospital connected to monitors and machines was shocking, PaFunda said.
“It’s like a bad dream,” Bromley said. “He had his whole life ahead of him.”
Meeks’ friends took to Twitter to mourn his death and celebrate his life.
Cameron Perkins, a senior at Sickles High School in Citrus Park, played with Meeks for three years on the Tampa Vision AAU team.
“In practice, he worked hard,” Perkins said. “He wasn’t one of those players the coach had to worry about.”
Perkins said he heard about Meeks’ illness and death from former teammates.
Perkins said he and Meeks stayed in touch despite going to high schools on opposite sides of Hillsborough County.
“Off the court, he was a real funny guy,” Perkins said. Meeks liked to sing R&B tunes, he said.
This year, they were looking forward to stepping into leadership roles on their teams, Perkins said.
“Both of us had a lot of seniors in front of us, so we didn’t get a lot of playing time last year,” Perkins said. “This was supposed to be a pretty big year for us.”
Meeks is the most recent Hillsborough high school player to collapse during practice drills.
In 2009, Wharton High School basketball player Drake Williams, then 16, collapsed during practice. He was resuscitated by Tampa Fire Rescue paramedics who happened to be at the school for a fundraiser football game.
At the time, doctors said Williams suffered sudden cardiac death when his heart stopped beating. Doctors fitted Williams with an internal defibrillator.
In 2007, Chamberlain High basketball coach Doug Aplin used CPR and a portable defibrillator to resuscitate 17-year-old Kenneth Brooks after he collapsed during basketball practice.