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Two Ballers, Two Deaths And Sadness In The Hoops Community

The incident began when SWAT officers responded to a call of a man with a gun at about 5:10 PM on Friday, Pacific Standard Time, in Sherman Oaks, California .

While police officers were communicating with him, he reportedly fired a gun at them between 7:00 and 7:30 PM. The officers returned fire, and the man barricaded himself inside the home.

Later, in the wee hours of the morning, they entered the home and found him unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at the scene and appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

We shockingly later learned that the man in question was former UCLA basketball star Tyler Honeycutt. He was eight days shy of his 28th birthday.

Coming out of Sylmar High School in the Class of 2009, the 6-foot-8 Honeycutt was the fourth ranked prep small forward in the nation.  

6’7″ Tyler Honeycutt [UCLA Bound] Mixtape; Skilled & Athletic Wing!

Check out UCLA Bound Tyler Honeycutt of Sylma High School. Honeycutt is a 6’8 forward ranked as one of the top players in the nation (ranked in the top 30). He’s very athletic, lengthy, has pretty good range and is a very good passer especially for his size.

A versatile wing player, he possessed the ideal size to play shooting guard and small forward at the college level and was seen as a legit NBA prospect due to his explosive athletic and leaping ability. He played fast, yet seemingly always under control back then, with a lateral quickness and dedication to defense that separated him from others.

As a freshman at UCLA in 2009-2010, he started 18 games, led the Bruins with 6.5 rebounds per game and was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team. After his sophomore season, he declared for the NBA Draft after being named to the First-Team All-Pac-10 squad. He averaged 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and led the league with 2.1 blocks per game.

Most scouts concurred that with his quickness, hops, fluidity on the perimeter and instincts, he had the potential to defend at least three positions at the game’s highest level. Add that to his high basketball I.Q., unselfishness and abilities as a willing passer, along with some solid mechanics on his jump shot that portended some steady improvement as a perimeter shooter, his future as a pro athlete seemed very bright.

UCLA vs Florida Basketball (2011 NCAA Tournament 2nd Round) Highlights

Highlights of 2011 NCAA Tournament UCLA Basketball vs Florida Basketball Final Box Score here: http://scores.espn.go.com/ncb/boxscore?gameId=310780057 UCLA Starting Five: G Lazeric Jones G Malcolm Lee F Tyler Honeycutt F Reeves Nelson C Joshua Smith Florida Gators: G Erving Walker G Kenny Boynton F Chandler Parsons F Alex Tyus C Vernon Macklin

That’s why the news of his death this weekend seemed so sudden, so unnecessary, so shocking. 

Bort Escoto, who coached Honeycutt at Sylmar High School in Los Angeles from 2005 to 2009, was reportedly in touch with his former player via text message during the armed standoff.

Escoto said that he last spoke to Honeycutt about 4 p.m. Friday and that it seemed like he was burdened with something. He said Honeycutts mother called him later and told him her son was acting erratically and he advised her to call 911.

I felt hes not built to go to jail, Escoto told the Los Angeles Times. But I dont see him ending his life either.

Honeycutt never did make it big in the NBA. He was selected in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. In two years with the Kings, he appeared in only 24 games, while playing mostly with their D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns. 

Tyler Honeycutt: Oh my Goodness

Kings` Tyler Honeycutt explodes to the rim and slams it down on Michael Beasley. Visit http://www.nba.com/video for more highlights.

In February of 2013, he was traded to the Houston Rockets, who assigned him to their D-League squad, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

He proceeded to take his pro dreams overseas, playing in Israel, Russia and Turkey over the last few years. This past season, he averaged 9.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Moscow-based EuroLeague team, Khimki.

Honeycutt was expected to sign a new contract this weekend with teams in either Russia or Israel. Instead, the hoops community, UCLA, his friends and family are mourning his loss, with an abundance of sadness and unanswered questions.

***

A few days prior to the news of Honeycutt’s death came the reports that former NBA player Clifford Rozier, once an All-American at the University of Louisville, had died following a heart attack. He was only 45 years old.

For the last few days my brother big Cliff been fighting for his life after having a heart attack, Kobie Rozier, Clifford’s brother, wrote on Facebook. Today he lost his fight. Rest easy big bro and Ill see you again one day.

Clifford had gone into cardiac arrest on the 4th of July and was put on life support.

LiveFeedLouisville on Twitter

ICYMI: Former Louisville star Clifford Rozier has passed away from a heart attack at the age of 45. Rozier was a consensus first-team All-American for Denny Crum’s 1993-94 Cardinals, averaging 18.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. RiP Cliff Rozier #L1C4

A McDonalds All-American, Rozier was named the state of Floridas Mr. Basketball in 1990 after averaging 35 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots a game. 

He enrolled at the University of North Carolina to play for the legendary coach Dean Smith, as part of what was considered the greatest class in college history at the time with Eric Montross, Derrick Phelps, Brian Reese and Pat Sullivan. 

They would eventually win a national title, but Rozier was gone by then. 

Things didn’t shake out to well for him as a Tar Heel. He only started one game and averaged nine minutes, five points and three rebounds per game as a freshman.

The knock on him, despite his athleticism, size and advanced skills for a big man, was that he could care less about playing defense. The 1991 Tar Heels were a Final Four squad led by Rick Fox, Hubert Davis, George Lynch, Pete Chilcutt and King Rice. 

Just because you were a 6-foot-11 McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, that meant nothing unless you paid your dues within the UNC system. And among the most important of those dues was putting forth an extreme effort on defense.

He left UNC for Louisville after his freshman year, with Dean Smith telling him you know, they play defense at Louisville too, Clifford.

After sitting out his sophomore year due to NCAA transfer rules, Rozier blossomed into a two-time Metro Conference Player of the Year. 

Former UofL Cardinal, NBA player Clifford Rozier dies after heart attack

Former UofL Cardinal, NBA player Clifford Rozier dies after heart attack Subscribe to WLKY on YouTube now for more: http://bit.ly/1e5KyMO Get more Louisville news: http://www.wlky.com Like us: http://www.facebook.com/wlkynews Follow us: http://twitter.com/WLKY Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wlky/

“He was probably the best rebounder I ever had, Denny Crum, the legendary coach who won two national championships at Louisville, once said.

After averaging 18.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game as a senior and leading the Cardinals to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, he was selected in the first round of the 1994 NBA Draft – the 16th overall pick, by the Golden State Warriors.

Students of the game remember that draft class because it produced the likes of Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Aaron McKie, Charlie Ward and Eddie Jones. 

And being picked by the Warriors sounds great in this day and age. But back then, the franchise wasn’t very good.

In the NBA, Rozier’s salary afforded him access to drugs and a party lifestyle that wasn’t conducive to someone who, we later learned, also suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He began hearing voices in his early 20’s. When he was supposed to be in his athletic prime by the age of 25, the voices became relentless. 

Basketball – the sport he loved unconditionally, the sport he worked on tirelessly, the sport that held so many promises to change his life – was no longer important. Over four years, he played for the Warriors, Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves. And then, his life spiraled into a virtual hell.

Morton to Rozier off the backboard in the 1994 Metro Tourney

Another gem from the archives!

In 2010, he was a recovering crack addict who’d spent years on the streets, homeless. He kept a gun by his side, often hearing voices that told him that he could fly if he jumped from buildings. Or to initiate confrontations with the police so they would kill him. Or to jump in front of high speed automobiles. 

He bounced from jail cells to psychiatric wards to halfway houses. As a child, he grew up in abject poverty.

The lights stayed off, he once said. We didnt have any food. The water was always messed up.

When living in shelter a few years back, where he was also working as a security guard, he’d turned his life around and seemed to be managing his life as best he could. With all of his basketball glory, that might have been his biggest and greatest rebound.

Theres nothing you can take from me. Whatever happens in my life, Im content,” he told the Herald Tribune.

Im happy. I have joy. I have understanding. I have knowledge. Im learning. Im becoming friendly. Im submitting myself and being subdued. Im being humbled.

You know something. I aint never looking back at the turmoil and chaos behind me because right now Im looking at paradise.

03/25/1993 NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinals: #4 Louisville Cardinals vs. #1 Indiana Hoosiers

Clifford Rozier, Dwayne Morton and the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals face Damon Bailey, Calbert Chaney and the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers, in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinals. Game played on Thursday, March 25, 1993 at the St. Louis Arena in St. Louis, Missouri. I DO NOT OWN RIGHTS TO THIS VIDEO.

***

We often celebrate the careers of NBA legends when they pass away. For players like Tyler Honeycutt and Clifford Rozier, their deaths garner a few headlines, and then folks, other than those closest to them, move on.

Both of these men dealt with some form of mental distress that took them off their initial path. Let’s look at their lives, their examples and understand that our mental health is not taboo. It’s very real. 

And just because a young man can jump to the moon and wow us on a basketball court, that doesn’t negate the fact that many of our athletes, like many in American society, are suffering in silence.

Until the latest headline pops up, or that family member or friend who seemed so content and happy gets crushed by its onslaught.

Rest In Peace Cliff and Tyler.

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