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Sat. September 21, 2013 | Joey Knight | Email

TAMPA — A Brandon High senior basketball player died Saturday afternoon after collapsing Friday following conditioning drills.

Milo Meeks, who had transferred from Armwood this year, died at Brandon Regional Hospital, where coaches, players and administrators from his current and former schools had gathered.

Jeff Pafunda, Meeks' coach at Armwood the previous three seasons, said a prayer circle of roughly 50 people was formed in a hospital hallway after Meeks, 18, had been pronounced dead.

"We took up the whole hallway basically, down both sides of the wall," Pafunda said.

Brandon High coach Jamie Turner didn't immediately respond to a phone message Saturday evening.

Pafunda said he was told by Meeks' mother the player — an only child — had been running with the team outdoors when he was allowed to go inside the school for a drink of water.

Pafunda said he was told Meeks collapsed inside the school, where paramedics were summoned. He ultimately was placed on a ventilator and never regained the ability to breathe on his own.

"Everyone would hold his hand and say his name, no response at all. It was unbelievable," said Pafunda, who took turns holding Meeks' hand in the hospital.

"At one point, I was in there with the Brandon coach and my assistant coaches, and one of the women in there — it was a relative — was saying, 'Be tough, all your coaches are out there rooting for you, be tough,' " he said.

Described as very quiet and easygoing, Meeks was named MVP of Armwood's junior varsity team as a sophomore and was a varsity backup last season. Armwood JV coach Ben Bromley, among the supporters who essentially spent the night at the hospital, said Meeks had a bright future as a student and player.

"Great kid, quiet," said Bromley, who also coached Meeks on a local summer AAU squad. "He was never a kid who you were like, 'I've got to check on him; I've got to check his grades.' He was never that type of kid."

Pafunda said Meeks never showed any indication of a medical condition at Armwood and couldn't recall him ever missing a practice. He said his team runs the same type of conditioning drills Brandon High was engaging in Friday.

Hillsborough County School District spokesman Steve Hegarty didn't immediately return a phone message Saturday evening.

"His mom said he had asthma as a child, but a lot of kids do," Pafunda said. "No incident ever. He was cleared medically all three years. ... It's just unbelievable."

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