Last week, former Butler High boys basketball coach Kurt Wessler got a text on his phone from Demontez Stitt. Stitt wanted Wessler to work him out. They met at a gym that was too full to practice in but spent 30 minutes talking about basketball, about life, about the future.
Wessler had no idea it would be the last time he would see the player everyone called “Buddy.” Stitt, 27, died Tuesday night in his Charlotte home.
Lead investigator Eric Wheeler in the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office said Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press there was no trauma found on the body of 27-year-old Stitt and that foul play is not suspected. Cause of death, friends told the Observer, is believed to be a sudden heart attack. The Associated Press reported that “Stitt reportedly suffered a cardiac issue.”
“I found out about it (Tuesday) night,” Wessler said, “and I spent the next 16 hours going from being completely devastated and in tears. … my family’s in tears. All four of us loved him. He was such a charismatic person; kind, beautiful, outstanding. There wasn’t a color code to him. There wasn’t a gender code. It was just you were you and he was him, and let’s go do something.”
Wessler said many of Stitt’s former high school teachers have contacted him since hearing the news.
“And they are beside themselves,” Wessler said. “He was a good student, but he was a phenomenal person. He lit up a room when he came in.”
Many of Stitt’s former teammates and friends at Butler took to Twitter to mourn his loss.
▪ Former Butler girls’ basketball star Cierra Burdick, who recently lost her coach at Tennessee, Pat Summitt, wrote: “I don't understand why, but the Heaven Hoops team just keeps getting better and better … Heart is heavy.”
▪ Former Butler football All-American and Stanford Univerity standout Peter Kalambayi wrote: “RIP Demontez Stitt … Best hooper to come out of BHS. Always on his job. Showed us we could make it.”
Stitt was named Mr. Basketball in North Carolina by the Observer after the 2006-07 high school basketball season, signifying him as the state’s top player. At Butler High, he averaged 17.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.5 steals for his career. He made the Southwestern 4A all-conference and Charlotte Observer All-Mecklenburg team after each of the three varsity seasons he played at Butler High.
As a senior in high school, Stitt averaged 22 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“He's a special kid,” Wessler said after the ’07 season. “How cliche do you want me to be? He's the engine that drives us.”
Stitt's bedroom growing up was painted light blue, showing his love for the North Carolina Tar Heels. When they didn't recruit Stitt, who was a bit of a late bloomer in recruiting circles, Stitt's grandmother, Gwen, said “They don't know what they're missing.”
Then national recruiting analyst Dave Telep called Stitt “a steal for Clemson.”
Stitt played with Clemson from 2007-11 and is the only Tiger in program history to start on four straight NCAA Tournament teams. He averaged 14.5 points and 4.3 rebounds as a senior in 2010-11.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Stitt was a pleasure to coach, a player with a “big smile and competitive spirit.”
Stitt had been playing professionally in Europe – most recently in Turkey. He averaged 19.0 points and 5.1 assists for Orkide Gediz Univeristesi this past season.
Wessler said words cannot describe how much Stitt will be missed.
“For a high school coach to be getting constant calls and texts about a player he coached nine years ago speaks to the type of person he was and the type impact he had,” Wessler said. “I’m a prayerful person and I’ve been talking to God about this a lot.”
Wessler voice cracked.
“I told him, he’s getting a really great point guard, and I’m going to miss him an awful lot.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story