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Reasons Sought in Deaths of Two High School Basketball Players

January 5, 1996

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Friends and family may know why one high school basketball player is dead _ he was so intent on an NBA career that he ignored warning signs.

Another player died because of a severe head injury, but authorities have been unable to determine how James Jaron Rumph could have sustained such a blow.

In both cases, those left behind to grieve are wondering what else could have been done.

``I loved James. This shadow of mystery makes the grieving process harder to me,″ Parkland High School coach Tim Byerly said.

Byerly said he keeps reliving the practice to try to remember a collision or blow Rumph might have sustained. Neither he nor the members of his team have been able to find any answers.

Rumph died Tuesday from bleeding of the brain that doctors said was caused by a severe blow. The 15-year-old was at basketball practice in Winston-Salem when he collapsed.

On Wednesday, Quinton Brown, 16, of Selma Senior High School, collapsed and died of an apparent heart failure during a basketball game.

At least one doctor in Arkansas, where his family moved from, barred Brown from playing football after detecting what another physician called an irregular heartbeat.

Brown had complained of chest pains during the school day Wednesday but would not consider skipping the game that night, friend and teammate Cedric Farmer told The News & Observer of Raleigh.

``He had been saying all yesterday during the school day his chest was hurting, he didn’t feel good,″ Farmer said. ``I told him not to play. He said, `Nah, I’m gonna play anyway.″

Brown, who previously had attended Osceola Junior High in Arkansas, was told by one Arkansas doctor not to play sports. So he went to another doctor who told him he could continue to play despite an irregular heartbeat, said his mother, Erie Brown.

When or how Rumph sustained his injury remains a mystery.

A medical examiner at Forsyth Memorial Hospital said he called police Thursday after performing the autopsy that revealed the head injury. Dr. Tad W. Lowdermilk said he was perplexed at how the boy could have gotten such a severe blow without anyone knowing about it.

``Much as I tried, I really could not find an explanation for what I found in the autopsy,″ Lowdermilk said.

Lowdermilk said the autopsy suggested that the injury occurred within hours of Rumph’s death; ``sometime between that morning when he came to school and the time he died,″ he said.

Further tests should help pin the time down more closely, he said, though those results will not be available for a week or so.

Rumph’s mother said her son’s day began ordinarily enough, with her waking the youth to get ready for school.

``I didn’t have to ask him twice. I guess he was excited for going back after the holidays,″ Louvenia Rumph said. ``When I dropped him off at school, he just smiled and I said, `Have a good day.′ And he got out of the car and that was it.″

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