The New Hampton School was reeling yesterday after a 20-year-old student from Cameroon died Monday night; he collapsed during a pickup basketball game in the school gymnasium.
Guy Alang Ntang, a 6-foot-7 forward who was completing a postgraduate year at New Hampton, had signed a letter of intent to play basketball for Wichita State University next year.
He was playing basketball with a group of students after dinner Monday night about 7 when he fell over backward onto the court, Headmaster Andrew Menke said.
“Guy was just back-pedaling down the court, just running backwards, pretty measured and controlled, and then he just collapsed (and) started seizing” Menke said.
Jamie Arsenault, the basketball coach and director of athletics and co-curricular activities, was in the gymnasium and immediately rushed to help Ntang. The school’s athletic trainer and another faculty member helped Arsenault administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation while 911 was called.
The New Hampton Fire Department responded within five minutes and rushed Ntang by ambulance to Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth, where he was later pronounced dead. “We are unaware of any medical condition that he had that would prompt anything like this,” Menke said. An autopsy was performed by the state medical examiner in Concord yesterday, but Menke said he did not expect to receive the results for several weeks.
Also in the gymnasium Monday night was Gregg Marshall, the newly appointed Wichita State basketball coach, who was making his way along the East Coast to meet with several recruits.
“The very sad irony of last night is that (Marshall) chose last night to visit New Hampton and was in the gym when that happened,” Menke said yesterday.
Marshall did not return a phone message seeking comment, but a statement released by Wichita State said, “We are deeply saddened by Guy’s tragic death. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Guy’s family, friends, teammates, and coaches during this time of loss.”
Ntang’s parents and eight siblings still live in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, where his father is a school teacher, Menke said. The school has been in contact with his parents and has offered to fly them to the United States, but no final arrangements have been made. In the meantime, Ntang’s closest relative – a cousin who lives near Washington, D.C. – was on his way to New Hampton, Menke said.
Menke first met with the more than 200 students who live at the school Monday night, shortly after he learned of Ntang’s death. He held a school meeting yesterday morning to notify all students, faculty and staff of the tragedy. Groups of about five students each met with their advisors across campus yesterday morning, and grief counselors from New Hampton and other schools were available for students throughout the day.
Although he had attended the school for less than a year, Ntang was well-liked and respected by his peers and teachers, who described him as tenacious, vibrant, charismatic and a role model for younger students.
“He wasn’t just a basketball player. He wasn’t just a foreign student. He was Guy,” Arsenault said. “And he was a young man who was driven by his goals of getting a college education, first and foremost. But when he came here, he really started to learn to love basketball, and he really was working at that, and his game improved tremendously.”
Ntang came to the United States alone in December 2004 with the help of a group that works to place Cameroonian students at American high schools. He attended Lakeland Christian Academy in Winona Lake, Ind., during the 2004-2005 school year, and moved to the Harmony Community School in Cincinnati the following year.
He lived with families of fellow students, but he was the one who took the initiative to come to New Hampton for a postgraduate year after he earned his high school diploma at the Harmony School, Arsenault said.
“He knew that basketball would help him to attain a college education, and he saw that as a gateway to so many things that back in Cameroon he probably never would have had,” Menke said.
Jennifer Berry, Ntang’s English teacher and the school’s director of studies, said when Ntang arrived at the school, he was placed in a lower-level English course because it was his second language and administrators assumed he would need more support. Within a week, Ntang was back in Berry’s office asking to be moved up to a harder class.
“I was concerned, but he was persistent and articulate and was very determined that he cared more about learning than a grade and said, ‘I want the most difficult courses I can take here because I’m going to college in the fall and I need to be ready,'” Berry said.
Ntang moved up to college preparatory courses, and was later placed in Berry’s Advanced Placement English Composition class. He was also enrolled in Advanced Placement French (his native language), pre-calculus, a senior seminar entitled “Issues in Modern History,” and a reading course. He even took an acting class to help with his verbal English skills, Berry said.
“His French teacher said that to read his writing in French was just a gift to her because he was so eloquent and honest; those were the two words that she used,” Berry said. “And that’s what he was trying to capture in the English language, was an eloquence and an honesty in his writing, and that really defines who he was as a person, too.”
Deland McCullough, the executive director of the Harmony Community School, said he remembered Ntang as a student more focused on his education than athletics.
“He was definitely one of the more accelerated students, and he didn’t get complacent about being a top student – he wanted to be the top student,” McCullough said.
At the Lakeland Christian Academy, however, it was difficult for some to see beyond his superb athletic skills, administrator Joy Lavender said.
“Winona Lake, Indiana – it’s a very small, conservative area, and Guy was quite a phenom, as far as his basketball skills,” Lavender said. “Of course he could dunk from half-court, it seemed like. He would just fly through the air. We got quite a bit of community interest in him here, he was so much fun to watch.”
Menke said the school plans to resume classes today and participate in scheduled athletic events. Although students at New Hampton were resilient, Menke said they were not ready to talk about Ntang’s death.
Plans for a memorial service were under way yesterday but had not yet been finalized, he said. Information will be posted on the school’s website, newhampton.org, as it becomes available.