Agent after Drive player’s death: ‘He played his heart out’

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Grand Rapid Drive player Zeke Upshaw suddenly collapsed on the court Saturday night, his agent was watching the live feed.

He knew this was bad.

“I just prayed that they could revive him,” said BJ Bass, who said he communicated daily with Upshaw as an agent and friend.

Upshaw, 26, was rushed to the hospital by ambulance after he collapsed at the DeltaPlex Arena in Walker. Doctors at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital tried to save his life.

He was pronounced dead at 11:16 a.m. Monday, his family said.

Speaking to 24 Hour News 8 by phone Monday afternoon, Bass said he was still stunned.

“I’m still in shock that we’re talking to him like he’s gone,” Bass said. “There’s no other words I can use. We’re just in shock.”

Bass said Upshaw was incredible man both on and off of the basketball court.

“He had a huge impact on people,” Bass said. “Anybody that he ever dealt with him tell you, this kid was a difference maker.”

Bass was hopeful that Upshaw would be headed to the NBA this summer and was confident he had a bright future as a professional basketball player.

It’s not yet clear what caused Upshaw to collapse, though a source with knowledge of the matter told 24 Hour News 8 that Upshaw was in cardiac arrest. Bass said he knew of no history of problems involving Upshaw’s heart.

Kent County Medical Examiner Stephen Cohle said Upshaw’s death has been reported to his office and that he is likely to perform an autopsy Tuesday to determine what caused Upshaw’s death.

Bass said Upshaw had played more in Saturday’s game than he usually does.

“I could see throughout the game his hands were on his hips,” he said. “He was just probably exhausted. … He was running through the finish line.”

Upshaw is from the Chicago area. Funeral arrangements had not been announced as of Monday evening.

Bass said he told Upshaw that he loved him regularly. Bass says he’ll think of Upshaw whenever he thinks of the game of basketball.

While the investigation into what happened continues, Bass says he has an idea.

“You know what I think happened?” Bass said. “He played his heart out.”

The Grand Rapids Drive released following statement from his mother, Jewel Upshaw, Monday:

“After continued efforts from the medical team at Spectrum Health, Zeke made his transition at 11:16 a.m.  To family, friends, teammates, coaches, fans, and confidants, thank you for all your prayers and support during this most difficult time.  We ask that you respect our privacy at this time.  Details of his memorial will be announced at a later date.  We’d like to thank the many doctors and nurses at Spectrum Health for their efforts in caring for our son.  We’d also like to thank the Grand Rapids Drive for the support they have extended to our family.”

The Detroit Pistons, the Drive’s NBA affiliate, honored Upshaw before their game in Detroit Monday night.

The Drive won the game at which Upshaw collapsed, sending them to their first every playoff game. That game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but has been pushed back to Friday in Toronto in light of Upshaw’s death.

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