By Mark Hallum
Benjamin Cardozo High School basketball coach Ron Naclerio is grieving over one of his former players who was shot to death outside of a bar in Wichita, Kan., Sunday.
Dwayne Brunson, 27, played for Cardozo between 2008 and 2011 and was remembered by Naclerio, who expressed “total heartbreak and utter devastation” at the death of the talented player.
“Cardozo and the Cardozo basketball coaches saved his life, and that’s what makes it so sad,” Naclerio said. “He had numerous offers to go Division I, but he decided to stay close to [Kansas] because of the girl he [married] and didn’t want to leave.
He had a chance to go overseas and play and make some money, but he was happy that he found some peace and quiet out in Kansas and didn’t want to leave the love of his life… Unfortunately it’s not a happy ending.”
According to Naclerio, Brunson came from troubled family situation as a teenager in Kansas and ran away from home to stay with his grandmother in Queens.
Staff at Cardozo took a liking to Brunson, a senior at the time, and added him to the basketball team, which he led to the city championship at Madison Square Garden.
The NCAA and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations brought Brunson and some of his friends to Wichita — about two hours from where he lived — for the weekend, when he met his untimely death.
Officials at a Wichita Police Department press conference said the shooting was the result of an altercation, but there were few details.
Brunson was at a bar known as Deuces when shots were fired inside the establishment at around 2 a.m., striking the father of two several times. The victim was rushed to a hospital and died of his injuries at around 8 a.m., according to police.
Wichita Lt. Todd Ojile said numerous people were at the scene, but only a few remained with no real cooperation from any of the witnesses.
Deuces does not have security footage of the incident, Ojile said.
Naclerio said Brunson was shot four times, with one bullet piercing an artery.
An online fund-raiser was set up on You Caring’s website to help to raise money for Brunson’s funeral arrangements and to help remove the financial burden from his wife, Mallory Stein. More than $5,000 has been raised with a $10,000 goal.
According to the fund-raising page, Brunson was killed on the same day as his youngest son’s birthday party.
During Brunson’s years playing basketball for Barton Community College in Great Bend, Kan., he faced off against top prospect Joel Embiid, who is now an NBA All-Star on the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 6-foot-6 Brunson flashed his talent during the highly touted matchup, recording 23 points and 11 rebounds against Embiid.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall