HAMPTON, VA. — James Hampton so wanted to play basketball with his friends and AAU teammates that he spent Saturday morning riding a bus from Washington, D.C., to join them.
Hampton traveled to Hampton, Va., where his Charlotte-based team, Team United, was playing in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League event at the Boo Williams Sportsplex.
Hampton missed his team’s game early in the day against Mac Irvin Fire, but he was there in time to play against Nike Phamily on Saturday night.
Around 7:15 p.m., just into the second half of that game, Hampton collapsed near half court and fell unconscious.
Medical personnel on hand administered CPR. Emergency medical personnel arrived to take over and transport the 17-year-old by ambulance to Sentara CarePlex Hospital about a half-mile away. It’s unclear whether there was an automated external defibrillator on site.
At the hospital, the players, their parents and coaches gathered to hold vigil. Among them was Duke assistant basketball coach Chris Carrawell, whose son, Caleb Stone-Carrawell, was a teammate of Hampton’s.
“You are just waiting for a positive outcome,” Carrawell said Sunday, “which didn’t happen.”
Hampton died at the hospital, Team United director Jacoby Davis said Saturday night. It’s unclear why he died, but Davis said Hampton had a history of seizures.
“We extend our most profound sorrow and condolences to his family, teammates, and friends during this difficult time,” Nike EYBL said in a statement.
Saturday night, Davis said his Team United players wanted to play on Sunday to honor Hampton.
“They really want to finish it up. The coaches are just torn up right now. So it’s going to be tough, but it’s what the kids want to do,” Davis said Saturday.
Sunday morning, after a night filled with grief, Team United arrived at the Boo Williams SportsPlex to play their final two games as scheduled.
Team United’s players and coaches declined to comment on Sunday, following a 62-51 morning win over All Ohio Red. Team United lost to Minnesota’s Howard Pulley 82-77 on Sunday night.
“I give those kids a lot of credit because I didn’t know if they were going to play,” Carrawell said. “Not only did they play well, they performed and won. It says a lot about them and it says a lot about the kid. They played for that kid and they responded.”
Carrawell was at Saturday’s game when Hampton collapsed. He joined the vigil at the hospital as the adults did their best to console each other and the teenage players.
“You are just sitting there,” Carrawell said. “You reflect on life. It was emotional. It was an emotional night.”
Back at the hotel, pastors came in to console the mourners and help them process their grief, Carrawell said.
Hampton University coach Edward Joyner Jr. had been recruiting Hampton, a Class of 2019 prospect. Joyner wasn’t at Saturday night’s game but heard about what happened and joined the vigil at the hospital
Hampton, who was a 6-6 small forward, had previously attended Coolidge High School in Washington before enrolling at Liberty Heights Athletic Institute, a Charlotte-based private school.
“He was an old soul, you could say,” Joyner said of Hampton. “He was one of those kids who wanted to do something to better himself and his family and was trying to make the right steps to do that. And he wanted to use basketball and college.
“A lot of young kids today live in the now. When I was able to talk with him, he talked a lot about his future, to get out of D.C. and branch his wings a little bit. He had a girlfriend he was very fond of, and he talked about how he wanted to grow with her. He just talked about a lot of things that young kids today don’t talk about. A lot of the conversations I had with him went beyond basketball.”
Hampton collapsed during a game against Nike Phamily, the California-based team that’s run by Marvin Bagley Jr., father of former Duke All-American Marvin Bagley III.
The game was suspended and wasn’t resumed. Nike Phamily forfeited its final two scheduled games Sunday and didn’t return to the Boo Williams SportsPlex.
Prior to its first game on Sunday, Team United’s players and coaches joined the All Ohio Red team in a circle at center court. They held hands, had a moment of silence and said a prayer.
Team United fell behind 14-3 before scoring 22 of the game’s next 23 points to take the lead and win.
Carrawell thought his son and his teammates handled the situation well to honor Hampton’s memory.
“That kid loved to play basketball,” Carrawell said of Hampton. “He died on the court. You try to tell these kids every time you step on the basketball court, it might be your last. You always want to give it your all. Whether it be injury or the worst-case scenario — in that kid’s case, death. He was a great teammate. It’s a lesson to be learned. Give it your all on the court. Nothing in life is guaranteed. Now they gain an angel in heaven and he’ll be looking down on his teammates forever. It’s an unfortunate situation.”
Langston Wertz contributed.