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Former St. John's guard Lee Green dies of coronavirus at age 49

Former St. John's players Lamont Middleton, left, and

Former St. John's players Lamont Middleton, left, and Lee Green. Credit: Sterling Nunnally

Lamont Middleton and Lee Green first met as teenagers playing on the same AAU team at Riverside Church in Manhattan. They honed their games together at Rucker Park and then both played for St. John’s in the early 1990s.

“He was my brother. My teammate. My friend,” Middleton remembered Tuesday. “We talk in the morning, maybe every other day. It’s hard. I just can’t believe he’s gone.”

Middleton confirmed Tuesday that Green, a 49-year-old retired police officer and DJ in Brooklyn, had died of the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the country. The St. John’s athletic department also released a statement saying that the school was “mourning the death of one of its own” but did not mention the cause of death.

David Edwards, another former college basketball player who was part of the Riverside AAU program at approximately the same time, also died of complications from the pandemic, according to The Dallas Morning News. Edwards set Texas A&M's single-season record for assists as a guard in the early 1990s.

Green, a Parade Magazine All-American, grew up in the Bronx, attended Tolentine High School before spending a fifth year at Cheshire Academy in Connecticut. He played for St. John’s from 1991 to 1994, reaching two NCAA Tournaments.

Green’s friends remembered him Tuesday as a great guy, both on and off the court. A popular party DJ, Green went by the nickname El Dorado, a moniker he first earned at Rucker Park.

“It was El Dorado. Like the car, because that was the way he played,” Middleton said. “He was a strong guard like a big car, but also smooth.”

St. John’s director of sports medicine and longtime head trainer Ron Linfonte remembered Green as one of the most popular players in the program.

“Even though Lee didn’t start, he was one of the most popular players on the team,” Linfonte said. “Not only was he an excellent basketball player, he pushed everyone. He was a great guy. He made everyone a better player and a better person.”

Former St. John’s coach Brian Mahoney, who coached Green two of his three seasons at the school, remembered Green as “happy, young guy.”

“He had a great personality,” Mahoney said in a statement. “All his teammates loved him very much. He was a very gifted athlete, very strong. He was a guard who could penetrate. He had very good skills penetrating, dribbling the ball and became a very good defensive player for us.”

Sterling Nunnally, a St. John’s alum and friend of Green’s, recently attended a St. John’s game against DePaul at Madison Square Garden in January, along with Green and Middleton.

“It’s just crazy,” Nunnally said. “I just saw him. He was healthy and we were having fun. Lee was having fun. Now, it’s like you wake up one day and you realize you are never going to see someone again. And the terrible part is no one is going to be able to go to his funeral service. Crazy.”

Middleton said he last talked to Green on the phone Monday morning of last week. He was happy and talking about a recent event where he had DJed.

“He was fine then,” Middleton said. “He was happy. I think then on Wednesday or Thursday he wasn’t feeling too good. He went to the hospital on Friday.

“It’s so hard to believe. He was the life of the party. He would uplift people and their spirits. He was tenacious athletically. He just had a big heart.”

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