- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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An already difficult year for scholastic sports in New York City took an even sadder turn this weekend.
St. Edmund Prep sophomore Jose Rodriguez died after collapsing following a scrimmage during JV basketball tryouts on Saturday. The New York Post first reported the news.
According to St. Edmund Principal John Lorenzetti, Rodriguez, 15, was at the sink getting water during a break and one of the players behind him noticed he wasn’t moving. The individual asked if Rodriguez was OK and there was no answer and Rodriguez fell over.
Coaches, including JV Coach Mike O’Brien, came over to Rodriguez, who was breathing at the time and they immediately called 911, who told them not to move him. Eventually, Rodriguez’s breathing became labored and he stopped breathing at one point, according to O’Brien. They called 911 again and were told to perform CPR, which O’Brien did until EMS arrived.
Lorenzetti is not sure whether Rodriguez, who was not officially a member of the team, was still alive when he got to New York Community Hospital. He said that an autopsy was performed but the family has said it will not know the results for a week or two. The principal added that Rodriguez had been cleared for sports by the school in mid-September.
“He’s a wonderful young man and very polite and obviously very well brought up,” Lorenzetti said. “He was a gentleman. He was a good student and he was a credit to his family and St. Edmund Prep.”
Monday, the school brought in grief counselors for all the students. The school offered mass for any student that wanted to attend and he said that more than 500 students attended, which is more than two-thirds of the student population.
The wake is planned for Thursday and Friday at Marine Park Funeral Home and the funeral is Saturday at 9:45 a.m. at St. Edmund’s Church. Vigils have been held at Marine Park as well as the middle school on St. Edmund’s campus.
“Right now, we’re kind of in a lull,” Lorenzetti said. “Things are far from normal but there is some feel of normalcy in the building but Monday was just an impossible day for all of us.”
The five basketball teams at the school, consisting of both boys and girls teams, will now be dedicating their seasons to Rodriguez as well as honoring him on their jerseys with a small patch. The school is also going to dedicate a locker room to Rodriguez and alumni are looking into organizing a scholarship in his memory, Lorenzetti said.
O’Brien, who ran the tryout for the JV players, said that Rodriguez had tried out the year before but didn’t make the team. About a minute or two before Rodriguez collapsed, he had written down the sophomore’s name on a sheet of paper that listed the names of players who were going to make the team. The team had skipped practicing until Wednesday.
“I had a meeting with the team and we took the last few days off and it was a struggle about when do we get back,” said O’Brien, who spoke glowingly of Rodriguez and described him as a polite and nice kid. “I spoke to them and I told them that my thought was we have to get back in the gym just to feel that sense of normalcy, get back into our everyday routines. To kind of help us all move along the way but never forgetting.”
Rodriguez's death is another in a series of tragedies that have befallen New York City high school athletes since March as at least four have died and one was seriously wounded in a shooting. Murry Bergtraum girls basketball player Tayshana Murphy and Truman football player Isayah Muller were both killed, Beacon baseball player John Fernando fell to his death and Molloy soccer player Justin Thompson was recently shot and paralyzed.