Jerome Whitehead, 56, a Waukegan native and former NBA player, was found dead in a San Diego suburb last week, California authorities said Friday.
The former all-state prep basketball star from Waukegan High School was a starting center for the 1977 NCAA championship Marquette University team.
The 6-foot-10 center forward was best known for making a winning basket as time ran out in a semifinal game between Marquette and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
“I had always wondered what it felt like to score the winning basket in an important game like that, ever since my cousin Rufus Woods (former North Chicago star) scored the winning basket against Waukegan in 1966,” Whitehead told The News-Sun in 1977.
“I had thought about it for a long time and finally it came true.”
Whitehead’s body was discovered Dec. 20 by a sister, according to a spokesman for the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.
When she couldn’t reach him by phone, the sister visited Whitehead’s home in rural El Cajon, where she found him dead in the bathroom at about 6:20 p.m. Emergency personnel were summoned and confirmed the death, noting “signs of decomposition,” the spokesman said.
An autopsy performed Dec. 21 found Whitehead died as a result of gastrointestinal hemmorhage related to chronic alcohol abuse.
Whitehead, who grew up on Waukegan’s South Side, was drafted by the San Diego Clippers in 1978. He played in 11 NBA seasons for teams including the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
Whitehead appeared in 679 NBA games, averaging 6.5 points, 4.8 rebounds in 17 minutes per game. During his NBA career, Whitehead scored 4,423 points, made 3,268 rebounds and 374 assists.
Former Marquette head basketball coach called him “aircraft carrier” and ‘muscle beach,” the latter a tribute to Whitehead’s muscular physique.
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