Michael Ojo, who played center for the Florida State University basketball team from 2012 through 2017, died of an apparent heart attack Friday morning, according to reports. He was 27.
The school and his former European club, Red Star Belgrade, confirmed the death of the 7-foot-1, 300-pound player, ESPN reported. Red Star could not confirm the cause of death.
Ojo, a native of Nigeria, was conducting a practice with Partizan, a professional basketball team in Belgrade, Serbia, when he collapsed, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Medical personnel called to the scene were unable to resuscitate him, the newspaper reported.
“In all of my years of coaching, I’ve never been around a person who captivated the emotions of everybody he came into contact with like Michael,” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said in a statement. “He had to be the most popular person in Tallahassee, and, certainly at Florida State University. Michael Ojo was a wonderful, wonderful human being. He was a great teammate and really represented what the Seminole spirit is all about. He was one of the purest Seminoles that I have ever been around; he will be missed tremendously by the whole Seminole nation.”
Ojo played professionally in Serbia for the past three seasons. At FSU, he was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s academic honor roll after earning his master’s degree in international studies.
Visa issues prevented Ojo from returning to the United States during the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN reported.
Sam Lunt, FSU’s former associate director of sports medicine for men’s basketball, told USA Today that his family was “crushed” at hearing of Ojo’s death.
“I am devastated,” Lunt told the newspaper. “I used to bring him to the house for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Loved that guy.”
In four seasons at FSU, Ojo averaged 2.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.6 blocks through 78 career games, WCTV reported.
“Not only did Michael Ojo teach me to be a leader, he taught me how to love others,” former FSU player Terance Mann, now with the Los Angeles Clippers, told ESPN. “He taught me that there’s more to life than basketball. ... He would always tell me he has more friends than just our teammates. He encouraged me to get out of my shell and meet new people and taught me how to love FSU for what it all has to offer.”
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