Courtney Lee had to go through the painful process of accepting the death of Danny Rumpf, his roommate and teammate at Western Kentucky.
''It was just knowing he's not going to be with you any more,'' said Lee, the Orlando Magic's rookie guard, before tonight's game against the 76ers.
Lee, from Indianapolis, was going into his sophomore season college. Rumpf, from Parkway High in Philadelphia, was about to become a senior. But May 8, 2005, in the midst of a pickup game at Mallery Recreation Center, Rumpf became a victim of hyperthopic cardiomyapathy, an abnormal growth of muscle fibers on the heart muscle. It's generally considered a genetic disease, showing no symptoms, affecting one in 500 people.
''He was just a good teammate, a good friend, for the most part willing to help whoever,'' said Lee, who wears Rumpf's No. 11 in tribute. ''I wouldn't have had all the success I've had if it weren't for him. When I first got there (Western Kentucky), I was homesick. He was the one who kind of stayed on my wing, talked me out of transferring, telling me he went through the same thing. He was the one taking me out, getting my mind off it.''
Lee has stayed in touch with Rumpf's family, and has been supportive of the Daniel Eric Rumpf II Foundation, which is hopeful of someday having the Mallery Rec Center's name changed in Rumpf's memory. The foundation is also raising funds to help provide defribrillators and emergency equipment for rec centers in the city, and to provide two $500 scholarships each year. The first scholarship went to Jarred Wright, who played at Caravel Academy in Delaware.
Anyone interested in contributing to the foundation can send donations to P.O. Box 4967, Phila., Pa., 19119.
''We just want to try and make people aware (of the disease),'' Lee said. ''Just tell them to go get checked.''