I didn’t have a chance to post this yesterday, so here’s the full story on the death of Tyrell Thompson. It has a few heartbreaking details that were not in my original report.
Tyrell Thompson called Chris Caputi around 2 p.m. Wednesday. Thompson, a 2006 Kennedy Catholic graduate, was to begin military leave today, and he said he had plans to make. Thompson and Kennedy classmate Michelle Smyth were to be married in May, and he wanted to spend the break trying on tuxedos with friends.
Later Wednesday, Thompson’s family and friends received stunning news. Thompson, a former Kennedy basketball star stationed in Fort Lee, Va., had collapsed and died while playing in a game. He was just 23.
The cause of death has not been determined. Thompson’s parents, Al and Lisa, were en route to Virginia on Thursday. He is also survived by three younger brothers.
“Tyrell was a big part of all of our lives, and not just on the basketball court,” said Caputi, who graduated from Kennedy with Thompson and is now the varsity coach at Yorktown. “He was a great friend. He had a great smile. Any time you needed something, Tyrell could make you laugh.”
Thompson’s death came about six weeks after that of Peter Sauer, a Scarsdale resident and former Stanford basketball captain who collapsed during a recreational game on July 8. Sauer was found to have an enlarged heart.
Thompson, a first lieutenant, graduated from West Point in 2010. He played basketball for Fort Lee against teams from other military bases. He began to feel faint while playing Wednesday night. After a water break, he returned, only to collapse after shooting a jump shot, according to Brewster Sports Center athletic director Al Morales, who spoke to Thompson’s parents.
“It’s just a terrible loss,” former Kennedy coach Tom Nelligan said. “He was just a fantastic kid. As good a player as he was, God, he was just as good a person.”
Thompson played three seasons for Nelligan and scored more than 1,300 points. He helped the Gaels win the 2004 Class B state and Federation championships as a sophomore. Kennedy reached the Class B state final the next two seasons.
The 6-foot-2 guard played 86 games over four seasons at West Point. He was scheduled to work Morales’ camp at the Brewster Sports Center as a counselor beginning Monday. Thompson’s 7-year-old twin brothers planned to attend as campers. Morales said Thompson also had hoped to play in the center’s men’s league championship game Monday night.
“We found out that he passed while we were all playing basketball, too,” Caputi said. “It was definitely a hard night.”