A prospective Saitama Broncos player for the upcoming season has died before his professional career began.
Center Chris Uhle, who attended NCAA Division II Rollins College, passed away at age 22 on Wednesday of an apparent heart attack, according to published reports in Florida.
As of press time, the official cause of death had not been reported.
Uhle was scheduled to arrive in Japan next week for preseason training.
The 211-cm Uhle and Saiatma had finalized a contract offer for the 2015-16 campaign. The deal was announced on July 29 on the bj-league team’s website.
On Thursday evening, the Broncos issued a statement on their website. In part, it called Uhle’s death, “sudden sad news.” The team also offered condolences to his family, friends and teammates.
“We are all in shock right now; we are all having a tough time handling it,” Rollins College men’s basketball coach Tom Klusman said in a statement that was published by the Ocala (Florida) Star Banner.
“Chris was one of the most likeable, nicest people you would ever want to meet. The first time I met him I loved him, and … I still love him. We thought so highly of him, not only as a basketball player — he was a really good basketball player — but as a person. … He was just unbelievable.”
According to the Florida newspaper, Klusman said, “I’m just getting bits and pieces right now, and from what I know, he had cardiac arrest.”
Uhle died in Atlanta while making preparations for the coming season, the Star Banner reported. He spent two weeks in Atlanta.
Rollins College also issued a news report on Uhle’s death. The article quoted Klusman as saying, “Chris was one of the absolute best kids I have ever come across in my 35 years of coaching. My heart goes out to his parents, Alisa and Craig, and their entire family. This news hit our team very hard, and we are rallying around each other right now. The coachign staff and team are thankful to everyone who has reached out. To say that Chris will be missed is a big understatement.”
Before attending Rollins College, Uhle was a high school hoop standout at Trinity Catholic in Ocala for his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
He wrapped up his college career No.1 on the school’s blocked shots list with 150.
In the Star Banner article, Klusman said Uhle showed no signs of having serious medical issues.
“I have known Chris for five years now, and he was probably in the best shape he has ever been, and I have no idea what happened,” Klusman told the Star Banner. “The hardest thing is, if we knew why, maybe we could wrap our heads around it. But when you don’t know why, it’s even harder.”
In the 2014-15 season, Uhle averaged 9.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 26 games (23 starts) for the Sunshine State Conference school. He was third in the conference in 3-point shooting percentage (39.7). He scored a career-high 23 points on Jan. 7 against Barry University.
Uhle’s father, Craig, played college basketball at Virginia Commonwealth.
The Broncos are coming off a 6-46 season.
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