Originally published January 6, 2013 at 12:13p.m., updated January 6, 2013 at 03:31p.m.
Another in an almost unthinkable run of tragedies struck the Buford community again this weekend.
Jeremy Nelson, a 12-year-old seventh-grader in the Buford system, collapsed Saturday night during a Gwinnett Basketball League all-star game at the Suwanee Sports Academy and died later at Gwinnett Medical Center from what friends and family assume is a heart-related issue. It's the fourth death of a young person from Buford in less than a calendar year.
Nelson has a twin sister, Jessica, who also plays basketball for Buford's seventh-grade team, and an older sister Kristina, a senior on the Wolves' high school team and a Notre Dame signee.
"Jeremy was a very kind young man and an excellent student-athlete," Buford City Schools superintendent Geye Hamby said in a school release. "Jeremy had a presence in the hallways and on the court. He was a young man that always shared kindness with others and one that the students enjoyed being around. His very pleasant demeanor will be missed by all."
Jeremy Nelson, a talented, 6-foot-4 athlete, was beloved his his classmates at Buford Middle School both on and off the basketball court.
"He was one of those well-rounded kids, a kid you want your kid to hang out with and you wanted your kids to be like," Buford Middle principal Rachel Adams said. "He was a great young man and he comes from such a lovely family."
Though his father Herb was a football player at Grambling, Nelson preferred basketball. He played in the GBL and with the Buford seventh-graders.
"He's a special kid from a special family, with a strong Christian background," said Adam Gower, Nelson's Buford seventh-grade basketball coach. "All his peers looked up to him in the classroom, in the halls and on the court. When he spoke or had a question about history or a basketball play, he had everyone's attention. Jeremy was a great competitor, even if he was not sure of an answer his hand would go up first. Several times in the classroom, Jeremy would be very smooth by talking basketball to get me off subject.
"On the court, it was the same results. He would not allow anyone to out do him. Rarely, if a player made a great move on him, he would come right back at him harder and stronger. Jeremy was a dynamic ball player and could play any position with his speed, skill level and height. Basketball was everything to Jeremy. Jeremy's love for the game of basketball is what gave us a connection and that made it very enjoyable for me to teach and coach him. But the one thing I will miss most about Jeremy Nelson is his delightful smile."
The Buford City Schools system still hasn't returned to classes from its holiday break. The teachers resume work Monday and the students come back for classes on Tuesday.
Though all of the previous tragedies have hit the middle school students, too, this one will be particularly hard for those youngsters. Adams expects Tuesday to be an emotional day and plans to help grieving students as much as she and her staff can.
"We're going to have a lot of counselors there and just be there for the kids," Adams said. "We'll let the kids determine what they need and we'll provided everything we can, certainly a lot of support and love."
In less than a full calendar year, the Buford community has dealt with multiple deaths to beloved figures, beginning with Buford grad and Wolves football coach Ryan Daniel. He collapsed during a pickup basketball game in January, 2012, and died.
Buford student Adam Smith died in similar fashion during a September basketball workout. Former Wolves football player Devin Durden, Gene's son, was in a horrible motorcycle accident and passed away in October.
"It's hard to think about what the community has absorbed in a short period of time," Buford athletic director Dexter Wood said. "I don't even know the words to describe the emotions you feel. Of course right now, we're not thinking about us. We're thinking about what happened to a 12-year-old and thinking about his family."
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