Mormin offered scholarship by Pittsburgh

Updated: January 2, 2004, 12:53 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Kevin Mormin, a highly touted 7-foot-2 center on the Our Savior New American School basketball team, was killed when one of two vans transporting the team rolled over outside Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday night.

Three others, including two players, were critically injured, and the driver of the van was charged by the North Carolina Highway Patrol with misdemeanor death by vehicle and driving left of center.

Mormin, a junior, had just received a scholarship offer from University of Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. Bob Bass, assistant coach of the Centereach, N.Y., private school's team, and Dixon confirmed that Pittsburgh had made the offer to Mormin. Prior to the accident, Dixon and his staff were scheduling an official visit for Mormin.

"We're not sure, but all we know is the van tipped over, spun out of control and the only fatality was Kevin,'' Bass told ESPN.com by telephone from Charlotte. The Our Savior team was traveling from the Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament in Delaware to the Dell Curry Shootout in Charlotte when the team's van flipped into a yard.

"He was a wonderful, warm gentle giant," Bass said of Mormin, who had just begun playing basketball after coming to the United States from France. "He was a wonderful player and never had any harsh words. He was a bright man."

Bass said coaches from a number of Division I programs had visited Mormin throughout the fall. Dixon and his staff considered Mormin one of the rising stars in the class of 2005. Baylor and Louisville also had strong interest in signing Mormin.

Officials at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem told the Associated Press that junior guard James Tchana of Cameroon suffered internal injuries and was in critical condition Thursday, as were senior Bougari Konati of France and Peter Stelzer, 14, son of Rev. Ron Stelzer, the headmaster and coach of Our Savior.

Tchana had a collapsed lung, cracked sternum and broken ribs, Bass said, and was in a medically induced coma, according to John Reade, a church elder who spoke at a news conference at the school in Centereach Thursday night.

Konati had leg and hip injuries and will have surgery Friday for a fracture in his pelvis. Peter Stelzer sustained a head injury and had his spleen removed, Bass said. Tchana, Konati and Stelzer were all stable, Reade said.

Also injured: sophomore Sheckem Lafayette, 16, with two fractured legs; junior forward Benoit Bekono, 17, who had a separated shoulder; junior Hanna Stelzer, 16, who had a fractured leg; and Sara Stelzer, 12, who had a broken clavicle. Both are daughters of the coach.

Emily Elizabeth Stelzer, 22, an English teacher at Our Savior and a daughter of the coach, was driving the van that crashed. She was released under a $1,000 unsecured bond and scheduled to appear in court Feb. 24, a magistrate said.

Emily Stelzer, her sister Sara, and Bekono were treated and released from Rowan Regional Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Zandra Spencer told The Associated Press.

Jeff Hood, executive director of the Dell Curry Foundation, said the tournament would go on with a moment of silence to honor the Our Savior team. Hood said members of the team were seeing grief counselors Thursday.

"It's an unfortunate tragedy and we're trying to make sure we do those things that are in the best interests of their team and their families as well as for the event," Hood told the Charlotte Observer.

Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.