Milo Meeks, as a member of the Armwood High School basketball team. (PHOTO FROM JEFF PAFUNDA)
BRANDON, Florida -- The 18-year-old with a size 17 shoe, Brandon High School's Milo Meeks gave 110 percent on the court every day.
"I will always remember him being unstoppable at every practice and every game," said his friend and former teammate, 17-year-old Scott Sollazzo.
Meeks collapsed on Friday after basketball conditioning drills, something he has been doing since he was in 7th grade. He was rushed to Brandon Regional Hospital where he died on Saturday.
Sollazzo was not there and did not hear what happened until afterwards on Saturday afternoon.
"I could not believe the Twitter posts, #RIPMiloMeeks, then I called around and found out it was true. I still cannot believe it," said Sollazzo.
Meeks was a senior on varsity at Brandon High School, but he only transferred there this year. He spent three years on junior varsity and varsity at Armwood High School. He was voted Most Valuable Player his sophomore year for scoring an average of 20 points a game that year.
Sollazzo started playing with Meeks almost two years ago in the off season with AAU, Amateur Athletics Union, and played some pick up games at the MAC, a local recreation center.
"One game he wasn't playing so well in the first half, coach Ben got on him, pushed his buttons," said Sollazzo. "Because coach Ben knows Milo so well, and in the fourth quarter he was a whole different person. He just came to life. It was the Milo that we knew. He scored over and over and over again, the other team couldn't stop him."
He said Meeks motivated him to be a better player.
"He was probably one of the best players I ever played against, ever guarded. During a scrimmage once, I was guarding him and he was guarding me, of course, and I told him 'Milo calm down a little bit man, I am getting tired. We got 20 minutes left of practice,' and he just told me 'Keep going, don't stop.'"
Meeks did not have a Twitter account or a Facebook account like a lot of high school students. Sollazzo said he was pretty quiet and did not do the social media thing, but somehow he always knew where other players would be to play a pick-up game. Many of the area high school basketball players would tweet about meeting up at the MAC gym to play on Saturdays.
"I think he lived at the gym," laughed Sollazzo. "Even without a Twitter account, no one tweeting to him where to meet for a game, he would already be there and ready to play."
He said no one will forget him being one of the most talented boys on the court and no one can fill his shoes.
"I am going to miss coming up here and playing against him all the time," said Sollazzo. "He was a good friend, a good player, everyone loved him. Everyone around here knew him, the kid with the size 17 shoe. He really was one of the best."
Meeks' coach since the 7th grade, Ben Bromley at AAU and for junior varsity at Armwood, supported Meeks transferring to Brandon High School for his senior year after his family moved.
"He was the type of kid who never complained, and gave 110 percent every time," said Bromely. "You never had to worry about Meeks getting into trouble or worry about his grades. He was such a good kid and a star athlete."
He said Meeks had a special talent.
"He just had a knack for scoring the ball. You would think he'd be off balance, and you'd say don't shoot that, and he shoot it and makes it and you think, okay that is a bad shot for some people, but for him it was an okay shot, because it was Milo."
Bromley was at the hospital on Saturday when Meeks died. He said players from teams across the area were there and friends from different schools to support each other and pray together.
"It was overwhelming and sad to see so many people's lives he had touched standing there in the ICU hallway, but it was a good thing to see everyone come together to show their respect for this young man and see all the lives he had touched and really his life hadn't even started yet," said Bromley.
Bromley said his varsity team at Armwood will play against Brandon High this season and that game will be different than the others without Meeks there.
"That is going to be a tough game for Armwood as well as Brandon," said Bromley. "It's going to be a different vibe in the gym that night. But no matter what I know he will be there and he will be there for both schools."
Bromley also said that even though Meeks was no longer with his varsity team, they will not allow any other player to wear his number, 30, this year. They will also save a chair for him with his jersey on it at every game.
At Brandon High School, his current coach, Jamie Turner, said Meeks was supposed to be a starting forward this season.
"He was a talented kid and always gave it all his effort every practice," said Turner. "I sat beside him when he died on Saturday with his mother and we all prayed the entire time. This will be challenging for the school and especially for our team. We lost a family member yesterday (Saturday)."
Brandon High School's principal said there will be grief counselors available to Meeks' classmates and teammates starting on Monday.