Monday, April 5, 2010

Berry basketball star dies on Easter Sunday

Standout Berry High basketball player Jaquantus Pinder died in his sleep Sunday of apparent heart failure after coming home from an AAU tournament the night before and going straight to bed, his mother said Monday.

Pinder, 16, a sophomore, played in a tournament Saturday in Columbia, Tafoya Pinder said. When he returned home he told her he was tired and went to sleep.

Sunday morning, she said she went out to run a few errands, including a trip to Wal Mart to buy him a new cell phone.

“When I got back, I told my daughter to knock on (his bedroom) door and to have him let the garage up, but he wouldn’t get up,” she said.

She went to check on him, but he was gone.

Results from the autopsy aren’t expected until later this week, but she said first responders felt it was a case of heart failure.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, 20 to 25 high school and college athletes in the United States die each year from sudden cardiac death.

Tafoya Pinder said her son had complained last year about his heart racing and then slowing down after playing. She took him for a physical and was referred to Presbyterian Hospital for a complete workup. She said doctors cleared her son.

“They ruled everything out,” she said, “and said it’s a sign of a true athlete probably playing ball too much and not drinking enough water and staying hydrated.”

Berry coach Michael Willis said Pinder always was smiling and was beloved at school. Pinder averaged 13 points and was named all-conference in the Rocky River conference. He helped Berry reach the school’s first N.C. Western regional tournament last month.

“He’s a great kid,” Willis said. “As long as I’m at Berry, no one will wear No. 10.”

Funeral arrangements are not complete. Willis said his team will serve as pallbearers and said that many Berry teachers were canceling plans for spring break this week and returning to Charlotte to help in any way possible.

Pinder’s father, Jeffrey, played basketball at Pfeiffer for former Charlotte 49ers coach Bobby Lutz. Jeffrey Pinder played professionally in Germany, and died in a boating accident in the Bahamas five years ago. He was out in a bad storm and his body was never found.

Jaquantus Pinder is survived by his mother, his 20-year-old brother Jeffrey and 12-year-old sister Kaylon.

Tafoya Pinder said she will keep her son’s memory alive.

“I’m going to keep his memories close to me,” she said. “And I will do what I need to do for me and my daughter now. I know he’s at peace and I know God is in control. There’s no need to ask why. Why is not the question. I had 16 years of a wonderful child.”