A Red Bank Regional (Little Silver, N.J.) varsity basketball player, who was the only senior on the team, collapsed at the high school gymnasium Monday afternoon during a scrimmage and later died at a local hospital.
Albert Martin, 17, of Red Bank, died Monday evening at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, according to Marianne Kligman, community information officer for the borough’s regional school district.
“It is with incredible sadness that we report the loss of Red Bank Regional senior and varsity basketball player, Albert Martin, who collapsed while playing basketball on Monday,” Kligman said. “Albert was rushed to the hospital where he died shortly thereafter.
“Our collective heart breaks for his family, friends and teammates and the entire RBR community. RBR’s counselors and crisis management team will be available (Tuesday) for all students and staff who seek these services.”
Red Bank Regional boys basketball Coach Scott Martin vividly remembers the last words he heard the senior forward say during the scrimmage against Point Pleasant Beach.
“We had just broken the huddle, and he said, ‘1-2-3 Bucs,’ and I turned around to talk to my assistant coaches,” Scott Martin said. “But as Albert was walking back onto the court, he collapsed right between our bench and the scorer’s table. Our trainer was there and immediately attended to him. It looked like had a seizure.”
Scott Martin said that the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Martin had passed a physical recently to play basketball this season and, as far as he knew, didn’t have a history of seizures. The coach also said there was a defibrillator on site at the time of his collapse.
“We played the first six minutes of the scrimmage and Albert was playing well. He got to the free-throw line a few times,” Scott Martin said. “We are so young this season and Albert was the only senior on the team. Without him on the floor on Monday afternoon, we took our lumps, so I said to him and three other guys you’re going back on the floor.”
Those were the last words Scott Martin said to Albert Martin before he collapsed. Scott Martin said he went to the hospital and met Albert’s mother, Tracy Dixon, who was at the game, and sister Sarena Dixon.
Catherine Dixon, Albert’s aunt, who lives at the same address in Red Bank as Albert’s family, said she was not aware of any medical problems her nephew suffered from.
“No, he wasn’t sick,’’ she said by telephone when contacted late Monday night. “He was a great athlete. He was just a young, beautiful boy. A bright boy. He was a great kid. His mom didn’t have to worry about him. He and sister (Sarena) were always together.
“His mother told me she was going to his game tonight,’’ Catherine said. “She asked me if I wanted to go, but I decided not to.’’
Albert’s coach said the player had a good sense of humor and was always smiling.
“There were too many memories to pick just one,” his coach said. “We were just working with him on his free throws and busting his chops. He always took it well and always had a smile on his face,” Martin said.
Point Pleasant Beach Coach Nick Catania, whose team was playing Red Bank Regional Monday, was shocked by Martin’s death.
“He was a really hard worker and a really good kid,” Catania said. “He was a tough matchup for us, and we’ve seen him during some summer-league games.”
The scrimmage started at 3:45 p.m. and the incident happened about 4:30 p.m., according to a Red Bank Regional official.
Reaction spread quickly over social media and throughout the New Jersey basketball community.
Tom Passafaro was an assistant coach on Martin’s AAU team, the Game 7 Sharks, and said Martin was one of his favorite kids to coach.
“He was one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet,” Passafaro said. “He was loved by his teammates and coaches.
“What I’ll remember most about Albert is that he loved the game of basketball and he always had his teammates’ backs. He was always there for them. It’s tragic to lose someone so young, and Albert will be missed.”
Middletown North’s Mike Barber was an AAU teammate of Martin’s and recalled Martin’s smile.
“He would always have a big smile on his face during practices no matter what we were doing, and I think the greatest memory I’ll have of him is how he always had your back,” Barber said.
Middletown North’s Will Boman was also on that team and said he knew Martin pretty well.
“He was consistently improving from the moment he came to play for us,” Boman said. “He was our big kid and our gentle giant.”
Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice’s son Mike Rice III is a freshman with the Red Bank Regional boys basketball team. The college coach credited Martin’s leadership.
“(My son) looked up to him,” he said. “They played together during fall league on Monday nights, and I would go to watch my son play. He had a lot of younger kids playing around him and they would make mistake after mistake, but he did all he could to be a leader. He had a good heart.
“He gave a brief talk to the freshmen, JV and varsity today and he talked about how they were gonna turn it around this year at RBR.”
Contributing: Staff Writers Anthony Panissidi, Josh Newman, Chris Parker, Chris Rotolo, Anthony Panissidi.