Lakeside High School's basketball squad will be without one of its more promising players when it opens practice Oct. 25 for the upcoming season.
Still, some hope that Vergil King will continue to influence future players.
King, a senior, died Monday afternoon after a basketball game with friends. Students were out of school for the Columbus Day holiday, and King spent the day honing 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.
On Wednesday, the state crime lab in Atlanta failed to determine what killed King.
"There were no obvious signs for the cause of death" during the autopsy, Tuten said. He added that "the cause of death is pending toxicology and histology studies."
While a cause of death was not immediately known, many conditions are not discovered during pre-participation physicals that must be completed before athletes are allowed to compete in high school athletics, said Dr. Steven Greer, the director for primary care sports medicine at MCGHealth.
Greer said that potential athletes and their parents or guardian first fill out forms on recent medical history and family medical history. He noted that, when these forms are filled out fully and correctly, there is a 75-95 percent chance of identifying potential problems that might arise from training and competing on athletic squads.
The problem, Greer said, is that these forms sometimes are not completed in full because either the family doesn't know everything or neglects to mention everything.
Greer also said that those interested in playing sports should get annual physical exams, rather than relying on pre-participation physicals.
Some of these physicals are given on a group basis to save on time, Greer said. He stressed that children should get pre-participation physicals from their regular physician.
"You'd like to think that your doctor knows your history," he said. "The guy taking care of you since you were born would know that you had a (heart) murmur when you were born, for example."
Lakeside varsity boys basketball coach John Kucela said that King played upwards of 20 games in camps with the team this summer. He also played tournaments with an AAU squad.
King had hoped to wear the Panthers' No. 33 jersey for the upcoming season, Kucela said. To remember him, the team plans to reserve the number and that space in the locker room.
The Panthers also plan to dedicate their season to King.
"He was a difference-maker in the post," Kucela noted. "As a coach, you're licking your chops thinking about him playing for you in the post."
Kucela said he hopes that the experience inspires others in their own lives.
"I hope other kids will see that you're not guaranteed tomorrow," he said. "Do the best you can while you're here."
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