Christopher Randolph was new to the Westerville South High School boys basketball program this season, but the junior was well-liked during his brief time with the junior varsity team.
Randolph, who had attended basketball camps last summer and worked hard during the preseason to earn a key role on j.v. as a wing player, died shortly after collapsing at the end of practice Dec. 11. His unexpected passing sent shockwaves through the program, school and community.
"He was a super nice kid, very well-liked," j.v. coach Mike Wasylik said. "He was easy going, very laid back. He really wanted to play basketball. He really wanted to work at it. He was new to us and new to our program and somewhat new to basketball. His dedication is what earned him a spot with us."
According to a Westerville City Schools press release, Randolph, 17, was treated by a certified athletic trainer at the school until an EMS crew arrived and transported him to Mount Carmel St. Ann's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 9 p.m.
An autopsy was performed to determine the cause of death. As of Dec. 16, the results had yet to be made public.
"We had just finished practice and we thought he was just super fatigued," Wasylik said. "The kids tried to encourage him and he was kind of bent over and he had a hard time breathing. The kids encouraged him to stand up and then he went to his knees and just laid down on the floor. At that point, there was something obviously more significant involved."
Wasylik, who said was no indication of medical issues leading up to Randolph's death, accompanied family members to the hospital. The next day, Wasylik, varsity coach Ed Calo and principal Steve Andersson visited the family.
That night, a candlelight vigil was held at the school.
In memory of Randolph, players on South's varsity and j.v. teams wore black armbands, along with black bands with Randolph's initials on their jerseys during their home games against Hilliard Bradley on Dec. 13. A moment of silence to honor Randolph was held before the varsity game and most of those in the student section were donned in black attire.
School administrators initially planned to postpone the games against Bradley but didn't at the request of Randolph's family.
"We wanted to make sure that we honored the memory properly," Calo said. "We asked the family if it was OK for us to play. If they didn't want us to play, we weren't going to play."
The j.v. defeated Bradley 56-43 and the varsity pulled away in the second half to beat the Jaguars 73-50.
"I had a hard time trying to get focused for a game," Wasylik said. "It's generally insignificant."
Wasylik started five of Randolph's classmates.
"He was fun," junior post player Gilbert Fosu said. "We argued sometimes, but it was out of love because we were good friends. He was fun to be around. If you were sad, he would make you smile. We've dedicated the whole season to him."
The school's athletics department is accepting donations on behalf of the Randolph family.
"It's a program thing," Calo said. "I didn't have a chance to really work with Chris very much, but his presence was felt. We like to believe that every single person in our program has great value and is very important to us. He's a young man that was in our program and we'll miss him."
Young boys team showing promise
The varsity boys team opened the season with a 52-47 loss to Reynoldsburg on Nov. 29 at home, but bounced back to win its next three games.
South is 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division entering a game Friday, Dec. 20, at Hilliard Darby.
The Wildcats defeated Eastmoor Academy 73-61 on Dec. 7 before rallying to defeat Bradley in their league opener. They trailed Bradley 21-20 at halftime but outscored the Jaguars 35-14 in the third quarter and 18-15 in the fourth quarter.
"We have to give the other team credit," Calo said, referring to Bradley. "They were playing hard, they were playing well. On our side of it, we weren't doing a really good job with our shot selection and we weren't doing a very good job as far as communicating defensively. We weren't running the floor real well. When we improved those areas, which are areas that we really emphasize, we came out with great intensity in the third quarter we played much better."
Jordan Humphrey had a team-high 18 points against Bradley, followed by Daylan Haynie with 14 points and Jelani Rogers with 11.
South defeated Hilliard Davidson 65-41 on Dec. 14 at home behind 15 points and 11 rebounds from Andre Wesson, 12 points from Humphrey and nine points from Chris Cook.
"I love our guys," Calo said. "They're really good guys. They're great kids and they're willing to work. They're not afraid to be criticized. They want instruction. They want to be coached and that's going to make them better."
Moore leads girls team in win over DeSales
Behind 26 points from Chenelle Moore, the girls team improved to 3-4 overall with a 47-40 win at DeSales on Dec. 14.
The Wildcats fell to 0-2 in the OCC-Cardinal with a 53-36 loss at Bradley on Dec. 13.
Camille McLellan had 14 points against the Jaguars and Moore scored 13.
"We're still learning," coach Silas Williams said. "Hopefully by midseason or the end of the December, we should be clicking the way we're capable of clicking. We'll definitely be one to contend with. We'll be right there."