TAMPA, Fla. (CBS Tampa) –  Dwayne Schintzius, the former University of Florida basketball star and first-round NBA pick, died Sunday of respiratory failure at 43.

The 7-foot-2 local legend began battling leukemia in 2009.  He was being treated at the Moffitt Cancer Center for complications from a failed bone marrow transplant .   The Tampa Bay Times reported that Schintzius was surrounded by family at the time of his death, including his parents and younger brother.

The Brandon native was named an All-American high school basketball player while playing at Brandon High.  Schintzius played for the University of Florida for three years and led the Gators to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 1987.  He left the Gators 11 games into his senior year in a dispute with the head coach, Don DeVoe.

He returned to UF for the first time in 21 years in 2011 for the Florida-Georgia basketball game.  He told the Gainesville Sun he wasn’t sure what people thought of him at Florida.

“People thought I just quit.  I’m sad I stayed away so long.  I wanted everyone to know I’m still a Gator.  I hope people forgive and forget,” Schintzius told the Sun.

He received a loud applause when his name was announced at the game.

Even though he had a rough ending with the Gators, Schintzius was a first-round draft pick for the San Antonio Spurs in 1990 and played for six different teams during his eight-year NBA career.

Schintzius was also famous for his mullet haircut, which he called “The Lobster.”

His father, Ken Schintzius, told the Tampa Bay Times his son was his hero.  Funeral arrangements are being made by Ken and his son Travis.


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