Former Phenix City NBA player unexpectedly dies in Columbus - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Former Phenix City NBA player unexpectedly dies in Columbus

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

A former Phenix City NBA star has mysteriously died. 

The family of Joe Meriweather told News Leader 9 his untimely death shook their family as they'd just buried his sister two weeks prior. 

The 6 foot, 10 inches tall "gentle giant" as his family calls him was a pillar in the family as well as the community.

He died unexpectedly Sunday. He was 59 years old.

"Very untimely, it was unexpected. He was actually here for the Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic," Meriweather's niece Angelina McKelvey said.

Meriweather was hospitalized on Saturday for pain. The family claimed at first they thought it was kidney stones. He was admitted into an area hospital, hours later he the family got the call he'd died; the cause is still unknown.

"The community they are hurting. Everybody's really hurting. They lost a great guy," said McKelvey.

Born in Phenix City in 1953, Meriweather graduated from Central High School before heading to Southern Illinois University; from there he was chosen as an 11th pick to the Houston Rockets.

Joe played on five different teams over the course of 10 years even playing overseas. The family says once he stepped foot on the court, he dominated the sport.

"They called him the ‘garbage collector' because he would clean-up everybody's garbage," McKelvey expressed.

Meriweather also coached professionally and at the collegiate level. He coached Park University's women's basketball team to a national championship.

Off the court, he was an avid volunteer.  As CEO of the 3C's Fatherhood Education Partnership, a non-profit based in Kansas City, he touched many lives.

"He loved basketball. He loved it. He would do basketball camps for the kids. He would come back to the Phenix City and Columbus area and do camps for the underprivileged children," McKelvey said.

Meriweather holds a couple of records at his Alma mater. He was also inducted into the Salukis' Athletics Hall of Fame for posting 1,536 points and 1,005 rebounds during his college career.

Meriweather's family was flooded with calls and messages from people he's helped, with many saying he was like a father figure to them.

He leaves behind four children and several grandchildren    

Copyright 2013 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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