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John Stewart was going to UK, Died in March of 1999

Lawrence North player collapses at game, later dies

John Kelly

The Herald Times

COLUMBUS — An 18-year-old standout basketball player for Lawrence North High School died Friday after collapsing during a Class 4A regional game that was eventually won by Bloomington South in overtime.John Stewart, a 7-foot senior who had already signed to play with the University of Kentucky next year, collapsed during the third quarter of Friday\’s game between No. 2 Lawrence North and No. 1 Bloomington South at Columbus North High School. He was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.Standing in the hospital, a bleary-eyed Lawrence North coach Jack Keefer talked about Stewart.”John was the neatest young man I\’ve ever coached,” Keefer said. “This is probably the low point of my life.”Stewart had scored 22 points and pulled down 11 rebounds during the game, including 10 straight points to start the second half. With about two minutes to play in the third quarter, he asked to be taken out of the game, saying he was having trouble breathing.Stewart had a history of asthma problems.Nat Hill, a senior from Bloomington South, said that moments after Stewart came out of the game, he fell backwards in his seat on the bench.Trainers rushed around him and the fans couldn\’t really tell what was going on, Hill said. Emergency personnel administered CPR on the court.”It was pretty evident right away that he was in trouble,” said Dr. Doug Robertson, a physician for the Lawrence North team.Stewart was put on a stretcher and taken to Columbus Regional Hospital. The cause of death was not immediately known.Bartholomew County Coroner Joyce Fisher said an autopsy would be performed this morning.”I suspect it is somehow related to a cardiac event of some sort — that\’s just speculation right now,” Fisher said.She said Stewart arrived at the hospital at 7:24 p.m., where attempts to revive him continued. Stewart was pronounced dead at 8:17 p.m.About 9:30 p.m., the entire Lawrence North basketball team, some still in sweats, others wearing letter jackets, came out of a back corridor of the hospital into the lobby where a crowd of fans and parents had gathered.The team formed a human chain, each holding the hand of the person behind him, as they walked through the lobby to the team bus. Some were crying, others just had blank stares, having just said goodbye to their dead teammate.”This is a tough thing to tell kids,” Keefer said. “They gotta wonder why. It\’s the whole gamut of emotions. It\’s totally devastating.”Scott Shadiow, a senior at Lawrence North, stood with friends in the Columbus North parking lot after the game.”You hear about this happening to guys in college and the pros but you just don\’t think about it happening at a high school game,” Shadiow said. “He was our age. I just can\’t believe something like this happened at our game.”When news that Stewart was dead reached the fans, many broke down and fell to the ground sobbing.Bryan Sirbu, a Lawrence North senior, stood in the parking lot and cried.”This was one of the leaders of our school and we really needed him,” he said.After Stewart collapsed, the teams went to their locker rooms. The game was halted for about 30 minutes with 2:25 left in the third quarter.Once Stewart was taken to the hospital, Lawrence North was given the option of suspending the game, which was tied 31-31. With Stewart\’s fate still unknown, an announcement was made over the loudspeaker that the players and coaches had voted to continue the game. Bloomington South went on to win in overtime, 55-50.At Lawrence North in Indianapolis, a school crisis team was assembled Friday night. About 200 students waited in the gymnasium and cafeteria for the buses from the game to return.The team\’s cheerleaders sat in a circle, and fans still dressed for the game walked around crying, many saying they couldn\’t believe what had happened, that they didn\’t understand.Duane Hodgin, assistant superintendent of Lawrence Township Schools, was at the school organizing counselors for the students.”John was an outstanding young man,” he said. “The first and most important thing is I send my deepest sympathy to his family. It\’s a terrible tragedy.”John was a very positive role model since he\’s come here to Lawrence North for all the kids. Just a very fine young man. He\’ll be missed.”Stewart had a basketball scholarship to the University of Kentucky. Kentucky coach Tubby Smith had said, around the time of Stewart\’s signing, that he looked forward to Stewart contributing to the school\’s program.”He comes from a quality high school at Lawrence North, and with his size and strength we hope he can be a force in the post for us in the future,” Smith said.Stewart had spent some time as a ballboy for the Indiana Pacers and the team knew him well.”I\’m shocked,” said Antonio Davis after the Pacers game Friday night. “It shows that you can never be too careful about checking a player\’s physical condition.”Jalen Rose echoed Davis\’ comments.”Something like this really puts basketball in perspective,” Rose said. “Here was a young man who was ready to step out into life and now he\’s gone. I can only feel pity for his family.”South (24-1) advances to the semistate next Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis against Terre Haute North at 10:30 a.m.Herald-Times reporter A.J. Nelson and sports writer Rex Kirts also contributed to this story.

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