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Thursday, January 31, 2008
Good Play, Ryan Gomes


Kent Youngblood and Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

It was Bob Ociepka's first head coaching job, at Gordon Tech High School, not far from Wrigley Field in his hometown of Chicago. Perfect situation? Ociepka thought so.

In his fifth season running the traditionally strong program, he had a senior player -- a good one named George (Truck) Robinson Jr. -- with star talent and charisma. One day in November 1983, Robinson, a much-sought recruit leaning toward picking Cincinnati, collapsed in drills. A valve in his heart, it was later determined, had burst.

"He died right there on the court," said Ociepka, now a Timberwolves assistant coach. "It made me think about whether or not I wanted to continue coaching."

He left the school the next season because walking onto the court was just too hard, but he stayed in the game, in large part because Robinson's parents urged him to do so.

Nearly 25 years later, Ociepka, with Wolves forward Ryan Gomes' help, honored Robinson's memory Tuesday in Chicago, where the team played the first of back-to-back games with the Bulls. Gomes, through his Hoops for Heart Health foundation and two other organizations, donated a heart defibrillator to Gordon Tech.