East Texas Loses Star Athlete - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/21/05-Bullard

East Texas Loses Star Athlete

  An East Texas star athlete dies on the basketball court. Now, the whole community is coming together to remember Larry Prentice. Prentice died yesterday during a basketball game at Hudson High School in Lufkin. Larry was a Sophomore at Bullard High School. He was standing in the free throw lane, with just seconds left to play when he collapsed on the court. Larry's family told us today, he had a history of heart problems, and the school says they believe Larry died of cardiac arrest. As the family explained Larry left doing what he loved, playing sports.

  "He loved sports," said Diane Prentice, Larry's Mom. "That's all he ate, slept and drank was sports. Football was his number one. He loved football." As only a sophomore, Larry made the varsity football team this year.

  "A lot of the times some of the other kids were not at practice, but he would be right there practicing and he would tell me mama I got to practice," said Diane Prentice. With a smile, the family talked about how big Larry was, and how he had even bigger dreams.

  "You'd probably be scared of him just looking at him because he was so big, but he was so soft in the inside," said Valeshia McCuin Bell, Larry's sister.

"He was talking about being drafted in the NFL," said Diane Prentice. "That's what he wanted to do."

   Today, the family remembered all the good things Larry did for others, like the time he took his cousin to prom.  "My cousin that was fixin' to graduate, she couldn't find a date to the prom," said Valeshia McCuin Bell. "He told her, he said, I'll go with you. I'll take you to the prom and whenever he came back the next day, he was telling me how much fun they had." Larry was also very active in his church and was a mentor at school. He was someone who made people laugh, and was someone many of his friends looked up to.

  "That's how I would like for him to be remembered, is the way he lived his life because he loved life," said Diane Prentice. "He loved people and he loved what he did and he lived his life, he lived it." Tonight Larry's teammates and friends gathered at Southern Baptist Church in Bullard for support. Bullard High School only has about 450 students. Larry's friends say he was very popular, and was known for being a great athlete. Counselors and pastors were also there to talk to the students. Larry's teammates say they are finding comfort from each other.

  "We're just trying to pass the time," said Andrew Barron, Larry's Teammate. "There's not much you can do in a situation like this, so I mean we're just staying together and hang out because that's all you really can do is be together right now."

  "Everybody having fun, talking about the good old memories about Larry just makes you feel better," said Brandon Davis, Larry's Teammate. "You get it off your chest."

  "This is an amazing community," said Ryan Tomlin, Bullard Head Basketball Coach. "I mean how strong these kids are. They are very faith-based, and they are very close and that's the biggest part of something that can heal this."

  UIL rules say the high school must wait five days before practicing or playing any games. Their next basketball game is on January 3rd at home. The school has set up a memorial fund for Larry at Austin Bank in Bullard.

Molly Reuter, reporting. mreuter@kltv.com

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