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Alabama high school basketball player dies after suffering medical emergency on campus

by Caleb Turrentine

A 17-year-old student at Pinson Valley High School died Thursday afternoon after suffering a medical emergency.

Principal Michael Turner confirmed the news Thursday afternoon. Turner said life saving efforts were immediately started when the emergency happened on campus and the student was transported to the hospital by first responders.

The Jefferson County Board of Education PIO John Huddleston said an AED was used on the student. However, the student was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The student was identified as Caleb White, a senior for the Pinson Valley basketball team. He was identified by Pinson mayor Joe Cochran in a social media post Thursday night.

“No words can be gathered to provide comfort to a family and community experiencing the loss of young life,” the statement attributed to Cochran on the city’s Facebook page said. “Please lift Caleb’s family and friends along with the entire PVHS community in prayer for the hours, weeks, months and years ahead. I was honored to know Caleb personally and loved the spirit he carried. Life is fleeting, enjoy every day as the treasure it is, I know Caleb did.”

Charlette Varnadoe White, Caleb’s mother, also released a statement.

“Caleb was loved by so many,” his mother said. “Not only was Caleb a great athlete, he was a great kid. We have received an outpouring of support from the community, his high school and AAU coaches, the Administrative staff at Pinson Valley, the colleges that have recruited or shown interest in him even his barber! We are processing this tragedy as best we can.”

Turner said counseling resources will be available at the school in the coming days for anyone who needs it.

Arnold Thomas grew up with White, and played football with him. Thomas saw him just a few days ago playing basketball at his house. He is shocked to hear he is gone.

“Today was just heartbreaking I can’t even put words together for it,” explained Thomas. “Before he left I just told just stay safe, stuff like at.. I just, I know i had a dreams of playing basketball, going to the NBA, just to see him what he was doing was amazing. All I could say was tell him to stay safe.”

Thomas said Caleb was a joy to be around, and had a lot of energy. He recalled his favorite memory with his friend.

“My favorite memories with Caleb is probably the first time I played him, I am gonna be honest, his team was stacked. Caleb put 20 points on my head. I lived with it, he was a great kid,” said Thomas.

“Caleb was a great guy, he was just cool, very respectful,…he was just a great person in general,” explained Thomas. “Caleb is an amazing person his parents did an amazing job raising him. All I can say is long live Caleb. I hope his parents and family can make it through it.”

Richele Crawford was a fellow senior at Pinson Valley High School. She remembers White always having a smile on his face.

“He was a phenomenal player every time I did watch it was memorizing to watch him, he was fun to watch all the time. During practice he’s always smiling and laughing he was one of the kids more on the goofy side. I forever remember him on and off the court always smiling,” remembered Crawford.

White played 78 games across three season with Pinson Valley. Last season, White helped lead Pinson Valley win its first 28 games last season before falling to eventual state champion Buckhorn in the Class 6A Northwest Regional Final.

As a junior, White averaged 20.9 points, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He was one of three finalists for the ASWA Class 6A Player of the Year. His play was good enough to be named to the AHSAA North All-Star team this past summer.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Caleb’s family, his classmates and basketball team and extended school family,” AHSAA Executive Director Alvin Briggs said. “He was an outstanding student-athlete who played in the North-South All-Star Basketball Game last month. He was an outstanding student-athlete and role model… Our heartfelt condolences also go out to the administration and faculty at Pinson Valley pray they find the strength needed during this time of grief.”

Other basketball coaches, players and programs flooded social media with tributes and statements Thursday night after the news broke.

Alabama high school basketball player dies after suffering medical emergency on campus
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