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Dad: Son was great basketball player, person

Brandon, Florida -- Before he ever played in the NBA or led the Florida Gators to their first SEC Championship, Dwayne Schintzius was a Brandon High School sensation.

This past weekend, Schintzius died at the age of just 43 from complications linked to leukemia. On Monday, his proud and teary-eyed father, Ken Schintzius still finds it hard to believe his son is gone.

"I haven't fully grasped it yet, I guess," he said.

Dwayne Schintzius was a good kid and a good student whose first love, his dad said, was actually baseball.

But at 7'2", Dwayne realized his destiny was on the hard-court, not the diamond.

"If he had any future it had to be in basketball," said Ken.

His father said Dwayne was always uneasy about his own height. People gawking or stopping what they were doing made him self-conscious.

"He got to where he accepted that," said Ken. "He never got comfortable with it, but he accepted it."

Dwayne turned out to be an All-American basketball player for the Brandon High School Eagles in the mid-1980's.

Today in that same gymnasium, Russ Cozart, a longtime wrestling coach, recalled how Schintzius led his team in front of a packed house, game after game.

"It was awesome," said Cozart. "There were great crowds. You know, the community came in. It just kinda got the community electric."

By mid-day, the student government had changed the marquee in front of Brandon High School to reflect a tribute to Schintzius.

From Brandon High, Dwayne went on to the University of Florida. George Steinbrenner had tried to get him to play at USF, but Dwayne said, 'I want to be close enough to home to come home, and far enough away to be independent.' And that's what he did. So Florida was a good match for him," said Ken.

As a Florida Gator, Dwayne set all kinds of records. He led the team to its first SEC championship and its first Sweet 16 appearance at the NCAA tournament.

Coaching conflicts led him to drop out his senior year, which is something he and his parents ultimately regretted, said his father.

"He might never have said it," said Ken, "We would have liked to have seen him stay there, but it didn't work. And he did go to the NBA".

In the NBA, Dwayne Schintzius had an up and down career. He spent nine years in the league, but endured several injuries and a half dozen surgeries. Still, it was another accomplishment his family was very proud of.

In 1999, he moved back home to his parents' house. He wrote a book. Shot a movie, and worked some odd jobs.

But three years ago, Dwayne contracted a rare form of leukemia. He'd beaten it, they said, but it led to complications which, this weekend, took his life.

Through all of it, Dwayne never lost his sense his sense of humor, says his dad, or his positive outlook on life.

"He never got down. He never said 'Why me?' Maybe to himself, but never to us," said Ken, "And his motto was 'whatever it takes.'"

Today, Ken Schintzius was going through some of his son's belongings. He found several sports cards which collectors had asked Dwayne to autograph.

He also found Dwayne's SEC Championship ring, which he said he may wear now.

"I'm gonna miss him a lot. A lot," said Ken.

The family is still arranging details for a public memorial service, which will likely take place later this month. Dwayne is also survived by his mother Linda, and his brother Travis.

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