By Dan Kane

NCCU basketball player who died had previously collapsed in the gym, athletic director says

An N.C. Central University basketball player who died Friday had collapsed earlier in the week while playing in the main gym, the university’s athletic director said Sunday.

Devin Butts, 22, of Macon, Georgia, a three-point specialist for the NCCU men’s basketball team, was on track to graduate this summer with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral and social sciences. He still had a year of eligibility to play, and planned to return for next year, Athletic Director Louis Perkins said.

Butts was at the campus’s main gym last Sunday night playing basketball with several others when he collapsed, Perkins said, and doctors are now trying to identify the cause.

“We are aware of no history that could cause this,” Perkins said.

He said the team wasn’t practicing when the collapse happened, and there were “only a small number of individuals” in the gym at the time.

“It’s just so hard for me to even come to grips with right now,” Perkins said in an interview Sunday. “Just playing basketball and fall out.”

Stephen Fusi, NCCU’s chief spokesperson, confirmed that Butts was taken to the hospital last Sunday, and that the incident did not happen at a team event. There was no indication of foul play or suicide, he said.

“We are still conducting our investigation into the sequence of events over the week,” Fusi said, “and so out of respect for the family and not wanting to speculate that’s the extent to which we can share.”

Perkins, like NCCU men’s basketball coach LeVelle Moton, spoke of Butts’ positive attitude. Moton said in a news release late Friday that Butts “will always be remembered as an incredible teammate that had an infectious smile at all times.”

“We’re just mourning the loss of a really, really sharp, bright young man,” Perkins said.

Butts averaged 5.4 points per game in 17 appearances for the Eagles last season, according to his team bio. His season high was 16 points against Toccoa Falls on Jan. 3, 2023. He shot five 3-pointers in NCCU’s win over Delaware State in the MEAC Championship quarterfinals.

A three-star prospect out of Stratford Academy prep school in Macon, Butts played for three other colleges before landing at NCCU.

Perkins said counselors have been made available to Butts’ teammates and other students on campus.

“We’ll work with his parents so we can properly have a home-going service for him,” Perkins said.