Clifford Rozier, a former Louisville basketball star and first-round pick of the Golden State Warriors, died at age 45 on Friday after suffering a heart attack, according to a post on his brother’s Facebook page.
“For the last few days my brother big Cliff been fighting for his life after having a heart attack,” Kobie Rozier wrote. “Today he lost his fight. Rest easy big bro and I’ll see you again one day.”
A Louisville spokesman could not confirm the news because he had not yet spoken to Rozier’s family, but Kobie Rozier told TMZ Sports that his brother went into cardiac arrest two days ago and was put on life support.
A McDonald’s All-American who was named the state of Florida’s Mr. Basketball in 1990, Rozier starred at Louisville from 1992-94 after transferring from North Carolina. The 6-foot-11 center led Denny Crum’s Cardinals to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, averaging 15.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game during the 1992-93 season and increasing that to 18.1 points and 11.1 rebounds the following year.
Rozier was a two-time Metro Conference player of the year at Louisville and a consensus first-team All-American during the 1993-94 season, joining the likes of Jason Kidd (Cal), Grant Hill (Duke), Donyell Marshall (UConn) and Glenn Robinson (Purdue). He appeared destined to have a long NBA career after the Warriors selected him 16th overall in the 1994 NBA draft, one spot ahead of future NBA standout Aaron McKie.
While Rozier and fellow rookie Carlos Rogers were supposed to help the core of Chris Mullin, Latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber turn the Warriors into Western Conference contenders, neither draft pick lived up to expectations.
Rogers flashed ability but could not stay healthy during an unremarkable NBA career that spanned five teams in seven years. Rozier played in 66 games as a rookie and averaged 6.8 points, but he was out of the league altogether by 1997.
Once his basketball career ended, Rozier endured tough times, mental health problems and drug abuse. When he wasn’t in jail, he often lived on the streets.
When the Lexington Herald-Leader caught up with Rozier in 2010, he was broke and living in a Bradenton halfway house, but he was content with his modest life.
“I’m happy,” he told the newspaper. “I have joy. I have understanding. I have knowledge. I’m learning. I’m becoming friendly. I’m submitting myself and being subdued.”
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