Wes Leonard's parents speak

Updated: March 16, 2011, 2:03 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

It was in the midst of a team celebration when everything suddenly turned confused, hectic and wrong.

That's what Jocelyn and Gary Leonard, the parents of Wes Leonard, remember about the moments immediately following their son's sudden collapse and death -- shortly after his game-winning shot saved an unbeaten regular season for the Fennville (Mich.) High School boys basketball team.

The couple spoke with ESPN's Bob Holtzman on Tuesday, a day after Fennville's emotional run through the early rounds of the Michigan Class C state tournament ended with a loss in the regional semifinals.

Fennville won three games after Leonard, 16, suddenly collapsed and died March 3. An autopsy determined he went into cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart.

"We were all celebrating until Xavier [Grigg, one of Wes Leonard's teammates] came running up," Gary Leonard recalled.

"I was taking pictures of the kids. I didn't see him fall," Jocelyn Leonard added. "Xavier said, 'Wes fell, you've got to help him.' "

In those first moments, Jocelyn Leonard thought her son might have sustained a head injury after his teammates lifted him on their shoulders in the postgame celebration.

"He had had a concussion in football and I thought, 'Oh no, we've got a concussion. He's fallen and hit his head.' ... So that's what I thought I was going to see when I went down there," she told Holtzman.

She paused, looked at her husband, then looked down.

"And that's not what we saw."

As the couple and emergency responders tended to their son -- with Gary at his head and Jocelyn at his feet -- Jocelyn Leonard thought her son might be suffering from heat exhaustion.

"They kept saying how hot he was," Jocelyn Leonard said. "I thought if I could cool his leg ... it's all going to be fine."

"Until [Gary] screamed, 'He's not breathing.' "

Leonard's father was trying to get his son to respond to him.

"I asked him to squeeze my hand if he could hear me. He couldn't hear me," Gary Leonard told Holtzman.

Gary Leonard didn't want to talk about what happened next.

"The rest of it was just horrible. Nobody should ever have to go through it," he said.

Leonard's heartbroken Fennville teammates played on, with the family's blessing, winning three games before a loss to unbeaten Schoolcraft ended their season Monday.

Gary Leonard said it was his son's dream to win a state championship. "He wanted to win the state title. I know Coach didn't like him talking a lot about it during newspaper interviews and stuff," he said.

He said it was a joy to watch his son play basketball.

"[It was] unbelievably fun to watch him. I think he captured the hearts of a lot of people that watched him because I think he played all the games the right way," he said.

The Leonards had not spoken with the media during Fennville's run through the tournament until Monday, after the season had ended.

"You won't get over it, but you've got to get through it," Jocelyn Leonard told The Associated Press after she and her husband visited Fennville's locker room Monday night. "We couldn't get through it without everybody helping us."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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